I don’t know about you, but I have to spend some time in nature every once in a while or I lose my perspective and composure.
One of my favorite pastimes on outdoor walks is to let nature speak to me. As the Biblical psalmist says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” (The Bible, Psalm 19:1-2 NIV.)
Nature has a beautiful way of talking to us. I am often inspired to put these “conversations” into haiku, a Japanese form of poetry which begins with a word picture inspired by nature, and is completed in the imagination of the reader. A haiku shares the deeper experiences of life through what we observe in nature, in only 17 syllables.
I’ve worked with children for years, and I never cease to be amazed at their hunger for life, joy of discovery, and persistence. Yes, persistence. That may come as a new thought, considering small children’s notoriously short attention spans. (Any mother who has tried to get her toddler to sit still long enough to finish a meal can tell you about that.) There are moments in every young child’s life, though, when the inborn urge for development drives the child to learn a new skill, such as picking up a small object with chubby little fingers, or crawling, or walking. These new skills require a huge amount of concentration and effort on the part of the child and a great deal of time compared to his or her short life up to that point. They also put physical demands on muscles that are just beginning to learn coordination and are barely strong enough to sustain the child’s weight.
When I recently moved to a new country, I went through a difficult time of adjustment. My friends and co-workers in my former situation had become like family. It hurt to leave them, and I missed “my” kids. I tried my hand at new aspects of our volunteer work, but felt I wasn’t good at any of them. At one point, for example, I channeled my energy into a toy-and-book drive for needy children, but when it was slow taking off, I grew discouraged and felt like giving up.
One day I was caring for a co-worker’s baby, Rafael. For as long as I had known him, Rafael had been trying to crawl. He would start by pushing himself up on shaky arms and eventually get up on all fours, but then he would get stuck. This went on for weeks. He would push himself up and rock back and forth on his pudgy hands and knees, but not make any forward progress. If a toy was just out of his reach, no matter how much he rocked on all fours or wiggled on his belly, he wouldn’t get any closer. He sometimes managed to scoot himself backwards, but that only moved him further from his goal. This day, after trying his hardest, he looked at me with “Pick me up!” written in frustration on his little features.
I could sympathize. That look was just how I felt, but I knew that all that struggling was strengthening his muscles and teaching him about his body. So I picked him up and cuddled and encouraged him a bit, but then put him back on the floor to try again. He would have to learn to crawl on his own; I couldn’t do it for him. Eventually he would grow stronger and get the hang of it.
Suddenly I realized how much like Rafael I was. I’d been struggling, trying to learn new jobs, a new language, and about a new culture, and my natural reaction had been to look up to Jesus and say, “Pick me up! Save me from this!” But He knows that this time of learning, difficult as it may be, will make me stronger. So even though His love is always there to cheer me on, I have to do the work. I have to persevere.
That gave me a new outlook on my situation. If Rafael can keep it up, then I will too! And when I grow weary of trying or get frustrated from seemingly futile effort, I’ll go to Jesus for love, encouragement, and the strength to keep learning the lessons life brings my way.
Rafael is now happily crawling and starting to pull himself up to stand. I’m also taking baby steps in learning new skills and broadening my horizons. I know we’ll both be up and running before long, if we just keep trying.
Within this ample Volume lies
The mystery of mysteries.
Happiest they of human race
To whom their God has given grace
To read, to fear, to hope, to pray,
To lift the latch, to force the way;
But better had they ne’er been born
That read to doubt or read to scorn.
Sir Walter Scott (1771 – 1832) Scottish historical novelist, playwright and poet.