Today’s article comes with a visual, two actually, as an encouragement to you to stop being so hard on yourself. We need to be reminded of this on a frequent basis, not only because so many people are prepared to tell us how recurrently we fall short of their standards, but also because we have a tendency to self-sabotage.
The first visual you’ll find to your top left, and it is a painting by a four-year-old, namely our precociously amazing granddaughter, Small Person, but since we’re limited in the number of words to this article, I’ll limit, with difficulty, discussion about her amazing-ness.
S-P was painting in the studio with her grandfather, the Norwegian Artist, who is also amazing (I’ve been telling you that for years), and they were both working on the same painting, The World Traveler. Like many artists-in-training, S-P was copying from the master, and you can see the work she was copying in the second visual, halfway down this page on the right.
“You’ve got to be kidding.” There. I’ve said it for you, but don’t feel bad, because if the Norwegian Artist hadn’t told me what S-P was painting, I wouldn’t have known. But then again, think about it: if a four-year-old could replicate a painting like The World Traveler so that you couldn’t tell the difference between the two, that wouldn’t be astronomically amazing so much as it would be be freaking scary.
“I Can’t Do This”
Go back up to the first visual and look at the red outlined square on the bottom: that’s the world globe. When the Norwegian asked S-P why she didn’t make it round, she replied,
“Because I can’t make round things.”
But, he observed, at the top of the painting is a blue blob, decidedly round. It is apparently a window, which should be square, like the red
“I can’t make square things,” she replied.
“But you did. The globe, which in my painting is round, is square.”
“I can’t make round things.”
I’m sure that I don’t need to report much more of this conversation. Suffice it to say that we can pick up two nuggets of wisdom from it:
1) S-P can, indeed, draw both round and square things
2) S-P cannot draw round and square things on purpose. Yet.
All of us are fully confident that, at some point in the not-too-far future, S-P will be able to draw round objects that look round, and square objects that look square. Because Small Person is just that, a small person who is learning and absorbing and experimenting with life itself, we adults are understanding that she will not “measure up” to grown-up standards. Anyone expecting that a four-year-old will paint with the expertise of a somewhat older, significantly wiser, and far more experienced Norwegian Artist is nuts, just nuts.
“I Also Can’t Walk on Water”
And yet, that’s what we do in our Christian life, all the time, castigating ourselves because we don’t walk on water, heal lepers, and create fabulous dinners for unexpected crowds of 5,000 out of a few slices of leftover bread and some freezer burned fish sticks.
Or perhaps our expectations aren’t so lofty. We just chastise ourselves because we feel discouraged (where is our hope and faith?), snap at a family member (patience, gentleness), or walk out into the wheat field and swear at God when we should be singing praises and hymns.
We are fully human, when our expectations are that we should be fully divine.
Little children — the apostle John uses that phrase all the time, and you can feel the love in it — we are not Jesus, although it is our goal to be like Him, in the same way that it is Small Person’s goal to paint like her Grand PuhPAH. Given time, patience, practice, and listening to a master of the craft, S-P will grow in knowledge and ability, but the finished product will not happen now, no matter how insistent we are. Indeed, if we are too insistent, we will cause discouragement, despair, and a desire to give up.
The best way of going about it is to work within the parameters of the person, encouraging her in the abilities she has, gently instructing at a level she can comprehend, and always letting her know that she is loved, no matter how square her world globes are.
This is how Jesus works with us, and at no point does he flail His hands in exasperation and storm from the room. He is infinitely patient with our finite limitations.
Can we be the same?
Does Modern Christianity Frustrate You?
Thank you for joining me at This Woman Write’s Contempo Christianity, which I publish on Wednesdays. For my other Christian writings, please visit my Commonsense Christianity blog at BeliefNet, where I post three times a week about living successfully, as an ordinary person, the Christian life.
Recent posts are
Just How Naked Do I Have to Get? (If you’ve been pressured to share more about yourself than you are comfortable with, read this.)
When You’re Not as Happy as You Wish You Were (Nobody wants to be sad, but sometimes, we pressure ourselves to reach for a goal that really doesn’t work.)
Money, Power, Fame and Name (If you’re like most of the 7 billion people on the planet, you’re probably sort of ordinary. Jesus really likes sort of ordinary people.)
Break away from Controlling People (Either you make the decisions that affect your life, or you let other people do it for you. This is especially bad when you let other people’s thoughts dictate your own.)
The Dissident Christian: Does This Describe You? (Go ahead — be different. Think differently. Walk that narrow path all Christians talk about but so few find themselves actually on.)