Last fall my husband woke up with the idea that he wanted to learn to play the ukulele. Within 12 hours he had a used one in hand and was watching YouTube videos to learn to play. His instructor promised that anyone could master the instrument with just just 10 minutes of practice a day. Initially the 10 minutes seemed reasonable, but soon the path to mastering the new instrument seemed filled with obstacles. The lack of immediate progress did not help to console the pain in his fingers or the pain in our family’s ears. But over time and with daily practice, my husband’s perspective changed from being frustrated he wasn’t “good enough yet” to simply enjoying being able to play – loving the path he was on. Time has also taught our family to appreciate the small improvements and progress he has made.
Our world would tell us a different story. It shouts that is it more important to measure up, to be more and do more – patience is for the weak and lazy. The problem with this ideology is that we are all different and one lifestyle does not fit all. Our lives are much like an instrument we are learning to master; each day we have choices to make, opportunities to grow, and perspective to gain. If we allow the world to dictate how we learn and grow, we can quickly become stressed.
The Patience of the Saguaro
On a recent trip to Arizona, I learned about the saguaro cactus which is native to the Sonoran Desert. It is a well-known symbol of the southwest with its up-reaching arms and soaring stature. On average, a saguaro will grow 1-2 inches over a 10-year period, and it’s often 75 years before they even grow their first arm. They are considered to be one of the most resilient of its species, they are also one of the most patient.
As we rode through Saguaro National Park I was impressed with these tree-like plants. Their enormous stature stands firm despite drought and severe heat. Much like the saguaro, we have the ability to stand firm against the adversities of life. Our experiences, relationships, and attitude are all a part of what shape us into the person we are becoming. We are not at the mercy of life, but at the helm as we maneuver our way through. We can choose to react patiently when the world tells us to hurry.
Embrace Our Unique Path
Almost 30 years ago some dear friends of ours felt thrown at the mercy of life. They were blessed with a beautiful baby boy and life seemed wonderful. They loved their son, however, it soon became evident that something was not quite right with this precious boy. Leigh said at first she was in denial, questioning whether a pediatrician had enough training or knowledge to make the correct diagnosis. Michael, was eventually diagnosed with a rare genetic disease called Lowe’s Syndrome. The diagnosis brought with it the grief at the loss of her son’s “normal” life.
The burden was heavy, and Leigh found herself thinking that no one had it as hard as her family did. She would compare her difficulties with other mothers and think they had it so easy. Their children were not weighed down with bodies that didn’t work or delayed in their development. Although she was often discouraged, her moments of self pity did not change the love she had for their son. She chose to focus on providing the most “normal” life for him that she could.
One of the hardest times for Leigh was when Michael asked her why God created him with Lowe’s Syndrome. He felt discouraged with his limitations as he compared himself to others his age. Leigh told him that God made him that way so that he could show God’s love, which couldn’t be more true. Michael loves others freely and without reservation – he reflects the pure love of God.
Years passed and Leigh’s perspective changed. Her realization was simple yet monumental – we all struggle. Our circumstances are different, yet we are the same. Challenges come in different shapes and packages, but they are still challenging. Learning to love the uniqueness of our life – good and bad – can become a blessing in the midst of a trial. Leigh learned to love the path she was on – the uniqueness of raising a disabled son – and found she could not measure her growth until she looked back years later.
Progress takes time and measurable progress requires more time than we are usually willing to recognize. Just like learning to play the ukulele, the more time my husband gave to practice, the greater his ability grew. Sometimes we can choose the direction our life is taking us, other times we are faced with unexpected roadblocks. The key is choosing to move forward with purpose and clarity and to love the path we are on.