A life comes to us fresh and fragile—we handle it carefully, we watch as it grows, and we are patient with the bloom. There’s no rush no rush no rush and then all of sudden, there is. All of a sudden that child is five and there is a hurry about our ways and a frenetic pace in our days and we have so much to cram in to that lovely life now, right now.
Maybe the rush happens every year, as summer is suddenly fall and leisure gives way to obligations.
Is there an optimal time to begin building a life? Can we let it bloom as it will and watch all good things come, or must we suddenly stop and suddenly start and always separate leisure and learning?
Layer upon layer.
Of course we know that education begins at birth—breathe! drink! sleep! poop! We are all born reactors and imitators, following the groove laid down by a God who has always shown us the way. No one teaches us those first basic survival skills which all of life builds upon.
I wanted to lay down gentle patterns and habits when the kids were young, but it became a regiment and a schedule. I don’t regret it—we needed structure and discipline—but it wasn’t always gracious and I wasn’t always patient and for the most part I didn’t see life coming in layers.
I thought it fell down in giant chunks of milestones I guess.
There are lessons that take years to learn.
There is knowledge we only gain by experience.
Mistakes can be good experience.
Layer upon layer, a life.
When each child turned five we started with the basics, but I kept trying to sneak in more. And you know that with that firstborn I started way before five, because zealous excitement waits for no child. For the most part my kids have survived, perfected their eye rolls, and I think maybe even somewhat learned to appreciate my bents and quirks, my over-enthusiasm promptly followed by burn-out.
We are never “done” but we are making it, and over the years I think we’re making it better, layer by layer, bit by bit.
The “just add water” version—instant success, immediate gratification—calls to us all, but God does His work on us a little at a time. Faithfulness and consistency go so much further than ambition and excitement, and sometimes our best consistency is simply coming back, again and again, to the most important things. Constantly turning. Continually starting again. Consistently repenting.
Layer upon layer a life is built.
It’s seen best in hindsight, like most things. Looking back on a portion of life, we never know if it’s the greater portion or merely half of the life we’ll live, merely a third or a fourth. But we look back and see the lines the years have laid down and the striations of accumulated experiences, and we see all the material that made us us today. All the ingredients. All the events.
We see it for our children, too, before they’re ready for their own look back on themselves. We see those bents and quirks that have followed them from birth.
All the layers are not even, but they have been carefully measured and ordered and sometimes we’ve cooperated and sometimes we’ve just complied; sometimes we have fought; sometimes we have died, inside, just a little, and that’s also His goodness because a death to ourselves is a life to God.
Layer upon layer you and I have grown, our kids have grown, our habits have formed or unformed, and the generations really keep learning the same thing. All of us who have wanted to improve on our parenting and our living have made mistakes and repeated mistakes and covered-up mistakes, but God’s patient-grace keeps coming, because no one has perfected living yet.
Whatever you are impatiently waiting for today and whatever growth you are longing to see or accomplishment you hope to have, know that little by little your life is being built. Progress is being made in the sudden stops and in the long obediences, layer by layer.
We can trust in the slow way, impatient though we are.