“Why is this taking so long?”
I drummed my fingers on the keyboard. Scratching my forehead, I contemplated what to do next. All my efforts seemed ineffective to produce the progress I desired.
Does this sound familiar?
Whether it’s the person in front at the grocery store check-out line or the traffic backed up on the free-way home, we live in an “I want it now,” culture. We want instant answers to questions, instant potatoes with our pot roast, and instant progress in our lives.
But what do we do when the progress is slow coming–not so much progress from the people around us, but progress from ourselves?
Lately, I find myself in a place of uncharted territory. Fear of failure is a daily struggle. Each morning I search out my first steaming cup of coffee and my sense of confidence in what God has called me to do. I find that I really can’t get the day going without each.
Most mornings I am acquainted with the uneasiness of entering into the unfamiliar. Starting a new career can be a little intimidating. Other mornings, I am prodded with doubts and worries to the point of frustration. Sometimes it would be easy to talk myself out of the will of God.
Have you been here, too? Unsure at best and disappointed at worst with the slow progress of your life?
In recent months, I’ve discovered that I am not above the advice I gave one of my children last year when they entered a rough patch at school. At the time, new concepts just weren’t coming quickly for my child. They often despaired and wanted to shut down. The fact that their ability to learn wasn’t instantaneous wore at their confidence and pride.
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2
When we talked, I could sense their frustration at not being able to master the concepts quickly. The time they actually needed to learn was not matching their own self-imposed timeline. My child had to first learn how to shed their vain expectations, and take an unassuming approach to their learning.
I continued to explain that sometimes with new concepts we need to make an adjustment so that the time frame is more realistic and achievable. We talked about the need to give ourselves appropriate time to learn and to practice the new material. Large chunks of information need to be broken down into more manageable pieces. We also discussed how we must always hold fast to the belief that we will one-day master the material.
And eventually, these practices paid off as my child no longer felt intimidated with their learning and could more realistically approach new concepts in the classroom.
Sometimes we are presented with new challenges, new endeavors, or the need to learn a new skill.
Sometimes, our ego aids the creation of unrealistic expectations.
Sometimes the reality that our progress is slow-coming leaves us discouraged and ready to quit.
Sometimes we need to learn how to learn by giving ourselves space and grace.
When we give ourselves space to learn, we are creating more realistic expectations for our progress. This is where we allow ourselves a period of time to first acquire the knowledge needed and then allow for the time we need to practice or rehearse it.
When we give ourselves the grace to learn, we award ourselves patience when we try but ultimately fail. And from the failures, we develop optimism as we learn to pick up and keep going. Grace is the voice that encourages us to “Try, try, again.”
No one goes from novice to professional overnight. Whether we like it or not, learning takes time. Therefore, progress takes time.
These days I am working hard to approach my new endeavors with greater humility. As I have recalibrated my expectations and given myself the needed time to practice and learn, I find that what I do accomplish is more fluid and productive. And even on the days where all my attempts seem pointless and not worthwhile, I keep at it. I keep showing up, coffee in hand, and often with a little borrowed confidence from God.
If you find that you are tempted to expect more from yourself than what is realistically possible, my hope is that you will find wisdom in allowing yourself space and grace to learn. Do yourself a favor and remove the added pressure of your own self-imposed unrealistic expectations. Instead, give yourself a realistic timeframe to grow and learn, and keep applying grace even if you try and fail.
We can all be encouraged from Paul in his letter to the Galatians, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season, we will reap if we do not lose heart.” Gal. 6:9