I was watching Kate (my 18-month old) playing with a shape sorter the other day. You know, the thing with the shape blocks that fit through specific shaped holes. I watched her as she struggled with a star shape for a while, trying to find the right hole. I gave her a little help and pointed her in the right direction. And then I watched as she tried to turn the star to get it to fit. It was all quite amazing, seeing her little mind working through the problem, agonizing to find a solution. Then I watched her pull the lid off the top and drop it in that way instead.
It was not my proudest moment as a parent. So, I pulled the shape back out and had her try again and wouldn’t let her pull off the top this time. She looked at me like I was crazy and walked off, probably to find a toy with less rules.
All of a sudden, I had this vision of her dropping out of school because it was too hard and then quitting her first job because of a relational conflict she didn’t want to deal with and eventually ending up living on the streets. “For goodness sake Kate… put the freakin’ star in the right hole. You’re future is on the line here!” I may have over-reacted a bit.
But, seriously, I want her to know the joy of struggling for something and succeeding. I want her to learn and grow. And I know that the best way to learn is through experience, through the process of trial and error, failure and victory. I don’t want her to take shortcuts and give up right before the crucial breakthrough. I don’t want her to avoid what is significant because it is also difficult. It always will be. And if all this is true, then…
Why do I take short cuts?
Why do I avoid what is difficult?
Why don’t I risk failure for the possibility of succeeding?
Why do I avoid conflict and awkward conversations even when I know it’s the only way forward?
Why do I, so easily, resort to taking the lid off of the shape sorter?
Seth Godin points out that most of us expect and understand that physical labor will be involved in just about everything we do but we hesitate to do truly important and significant things because it involves emotional labor. “Emotional labor is difficult and easy to avoid. But when we avoid it, we don’t do much worth seeking out.”
To do something significant often involves risk and frustration. Which causes our flight response to kick in and we turn tail and run the other direction choosing the path of least resistance. And, if we’re Christians, we might say “I guess God just closed that door.”
Let me leave you with three questions I’ve been asking myself:
- What am I doing with my life that is difficult? Am I trying to find a short-cut?
- Is fear of failure keeping me from doing something I feel strongly about?
- Is there a difficult conversation that I need to have today?
“…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” – Romans 5: 3-4