“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
My son recently achieved one of the greatest accomplishments that we as humans can attain – he learned to tie his shoes. He’d much rather wear his Velcro shoes every day (which, admittedly, is way easier), but shoes don’t always come in Velcro. I think learning to tie your shoes is like a rite of passage, right? Achieving such a marvelous feat, however, did not happen overnight. Whenever I would tell him that we needed to practice tying it was as if I was asking him to paint the house, fold the laundry, and make dinner for his sister all at the same time. He would let out a big sigh, slouch, traipse over, and plop on the chair with the hopes that it would all be over soon. This charade went on and off for about a year. Then there was that one fine day. I think the sun was shining, birds were singing, and all of heaven was watching. I even think that God told me it was going to be the day that he was going to learn to tie his shoes. So I confidently called him over and said, “Son, we are going to learn to tie your shoes today.” He responded with a surprising amount of positivity. We sat down, got a shoe, crossed the laces, took the rabbit around the tree, pulled him through, and, voila, his shoe was tied!
Persistence paid off.
I wish my son would have learned to tie his shoe the first time, but it didn’t work that way. It took effort for somewhere around a year before he finally got it. There were many days that I gave up before he did and days that he’d rather do absolutely anything else other than wrestle with some shoe laces. However, persistence has its way of bringing things along. When we finally arrive at our desired destination, the satisfaction rating is off the charts. You may have had to persist with some things to reach your goals, but what happened when some goals weren’t reached? Maybe you didn’t make the team. Maybe the relationship didn’t work out. Maybe you didn’t become a professional athlete. Maybe they end up dying despite your best efforts and unrelenting prayers to God.
Sometimes, persistence doesn’t work.
There is so much energy and emotion and time sacrificed to achieve your goal. When expectations aren’t met, the letdown can be devastating. Something so important is now lost. Though you can feel lonely dealing with the loss, you know that you aren’t the first to experience it. Yet it hurts because it happened to you. Sometimes things don’t work out the way we want them to, but life does not end. You and I are not defined by whether our life goals panned out or not. Our life matters because there is a God who loves us and is relentless in our pursuit of us. He doesn’t quit when things are hard. He doesn’t stop because something didn’t “work out” as we would have it. So let’s persist in one thing: loving God. Let not our circumstances dictate our attitude. This is the one thing that if we persist in, we will always succeed. Then we can truly say the words of Paul, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
“There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake.” Ecclesiastes 7:20 (GNT)
I love being a dad. Of all of the things I get to do in the world, this is unequaled. These two little ones bring so much laughter, warmth, and joy that I feel beyond blessed. Then there are those times—parents know what I am talking about here—those times where the same sweet, wonderful kids suddenly lose their minds. They act as if any sensibility they did have was suddenly snatched away by some spiteful creature. As a result, in a moment of irony, I lose it as well and enter the land of temporary insanity. All those lovey things that I know to be true disappear in my mind. And just like that, I begin question my ability to be the dad that I need to be. I ask myself,
“Why am I not perfect?”
I ask this question about practically every area of my life. Why do I lose my cool when I am parenting? Why am I not impeccable at my job? Why can communicating with others be such a struggle for me? I’ll even question why I am not better at painting a wall. Does this ever sound like you? If you aren’t sure, consider these things: Are you able to take a complement? When someone tells you something nice or praises you, do you respond with a simple “thank you”? Or do you expend energy pointing out why they’re wrong? Or diminish what they saw in you by saying “it’s not a big deal”? Do you ever quip back with something negative? In a world of Pinterest and social media, it can be hard not to have a perilous relationship with perfection. On the other hand, there are also those who can take a compliment, but are stingy handing them out. They have a hard time dealing with the imperfection of others. People might perceive them as arrogant and impatient. But whether you struggle to measure up or feel like you’re the only one who does, these are still tarnished relationships with perfection.
Perfect is not normal. Good is.
I have heard on more than one occasion that I am a good dad. It feels really nice to hear that. But compliments like this also send my mind also racing through all the times I’ve lost my cool or have let my kids down. I immediately start degrading the words of someone who was genuinely trying to share their opinion of the quality of father I am. It’s just the worst. When that happens, it’s because I have missed the point. They didn’t say I am a perfect dad; they said I am a good dad. The old man Solomon said, “There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake.” This serves as a reminder that there are going to be days that I get it right and days that I miss the mark. In fact, that’s exactly why Jesus came to do what he did. He has brought hope to the imperfect humanity that is us. We are reconciled with God because none of us are perfect or good enough. We all miss the mark. Knowing that Jesus did this and that he loves me, I am motivated and strive to be best that I can each day. And when I see growth, I know that God is doing a good work in me. That is good. I believe that is what makes me a good dad. Besides, if we were all perfect, the world would be a pretty boring place, don’t you think?