It was almost painful to watch: shots falling short, missing their targets, no-one playing as a team, each person doing their own thing. It was no wonder the team was not winning. If it hadn’t been for the fact that they were all eight years old, it would have been a complete waste of time: but they were all beginners, all learning. And we all have to begin somewhere.
I wonder what it is about imperfection that we tend to turn away from? After all, no matter what we can do well, we all once made a complete mess of. Whether it be learning to walk, speak, count, or spell, or even more complex skills, we all had to begin somewhere, and we all had to struggle with it.
Expectations are powerful forces for both good and bad. Many studies have been undertaken which demonstrate how expectations shape performance. And many of us have laboured under unrealistic expectations at some time or other. Where is the balance to be found between expecting the best, and allowing people to grow and develop?
The way in which Jesus encountered people and left them with some sense of appreciation and purpose is instructive. His expectations are always simply expressed, and within grasp of understanding and possibility. To the woman caught in adultery he offers forgiveness with a simple request “Go and sin no more.” To a teacher of the law he asks him to be a neighbour. To the man possessed by Legion he simply instructs him to go into his town and tell people what had happened to him. All very simple, indeed never much more than the next step.
It is amazing that we can celebrate a child’s first faltering steps, or rejoice over the first semblance of a word, yet in times to come pick at the same child for stumbling over step or word. I remember the wording on a child’s t-shirt “Mum and Dad couldn’t wait for me to walk and talk. Now all I hear is ‘sit down and shut up’”
May we learn the blessedness of faltering steps as we seek to follow in the footsteps of the master.
August 31, 2003