Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Baby steps

I had a delightful phone call with my mother this evening. It's her diamond birthday (75th) and I so enjoyed reminiscing with her and learning from her as she shared some very inspirational insights.

At one point in the conversation, we acknowledged that even with the experiences we've had so far in life, we've barely scratched the surface of what there is to learn and understand. That's both an exciting and a daunting thought.

I think of the times I took classes in high school or college and hoped that I would already have a good enough understanding of the subject to not have to sweat getting a good grade. Unfortunately, my understanding at the time was that school was really just something to hurry through and pass with good grades so I could get on with life.

Now my understanding is changing. Classes are to learn from, not to expect to come in and know it all already. The same goes for classes we take in Earth life--sometimes referred to as the School of Hard Knocks. (Some days it feels I'm taking graduate level courses from this highly respected institution.)

The point is--weird as it may sound to those of you who don't suffer my same ailment--we don't already know it all. We'd probably consume a lot less blood pressure medicine if we'd just remember that simple fact and give ourselves the space to learn, grow, and develop (especially as adults).

Recently, I finally came to acknowledge that to become aware of a sin, imperfection, or challenge is not the same as to know how to repent, improve, or change it. In other words, mere recognition of a problem does not mean we're immediately equipped to change it or to do better.

What I'm learning is that the atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible to have patience with ourselves in the school of life without fear of being overrun or ruined. This life is the time to learn and prepare and improve.

"And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men." 2 Nephi 2:21

What if we really gave ourselves the space to become aware, learn, practice, and try, try again.

I've often remarked that parents have such patience with their little children learning to walk. We don't put down their efforts no matter how long it takes. We just keep encouraging and celebrating every little step.

But sometime between the learning-to-walk and becoming adults, we lose patience with the baby-steps of life. For some reason we stop celebrating and encouraging and instead become self-appointed critics and judges. (And we tend to be harshest on ourselves.)

I watched with some wonderment as Talitha courageously grabbed her mother's hands tonight and walked with everything she had. We are all just as excited and cheer just as loud for every ounce of progress this time as we did the first time she learned to walk.

We understand and appreciate that she's doing the best she can and that's worthy of celebration.

I think it's time to acknowledge that the ENTIRETY of life is just a series of baby-step lessons where we can enthusiastically show up, do our best and even be our own cheerleaders.

And even if--especially if--we must learn the same baby-steps twice, SO WHAT! Who but God knows the trials we each individually face and the depth of our desires to just be loved and cherished for who we really are and according to our own unique gifts and capabilities.

No one cares more about us than God. He has an infinite patience for our baby-step progress and encourages us every step of the way. In fact, He died for us to overcome death and hell so that we could have a fullness of peace, happiness, and joy. In His own words:

"...this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39)

So, I'm a big fan of baby steps now.

And I'm going to give myself permission to take some.


  1. William, you and I have talked before about the scarcity vs. abundance point of view. I believe that the scarcity view is what creates the criticism instead of the celebration of success. The self-criticism begins at the point we can grasp the concept of "good, but not good enough." It is the artificial imposition of earthly constraints like time that cause fear that leads to criticism. Our society is somewhat obsessed with the concept of normal in order to identify what is not normal. I think that is why the servants of God don't focus on a list of "to do's" that make us acceptable. Instead they focus on your spiritual trajectory... what you are becoming. I believe that in an eternal sense, since time is artificial, that where you are heading is far more important than that the speed with which you are getting there. It is when we cease to learn, that our spiritual trajectory gets into dangerous territory. Hence 2 Nephi 9:28 "O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish." Why will they perish? Because in the assumption that they know of themselves, they have chosen a trajectory of damnation (ceasing to learn and progress). So we should celebrate the normal goodness of following the commandments of God in those around us, because that consistent service to God regardless of the speed allows Him to keep teaching us.

  2. Very thought provoking, Stanley. Thank you!