We sit there together at the table, laboriously sounding out letters, trying to make them become words. P-i-g. S-i-t-s. i-n. M-u-d. Slowly, tediously, making sense of these one syllable words. And for this five-year-old boy with bright eyes and a wild imagination – and an already tired-of-sitting-still after four hours at school mentality – this is the hardest work he is capable of. It takes every ounce of concentration; everything he has is fighting to accomplish this task.
A few short hours later another boy – this one much taller – with bright eyes and a wild imagination bursting with hopes and dreams rushes about a classroom at a small mountain high school. Learning how light systems work, booking competitions for his ensembles, attempting to direct all aspects of a musical, a little overwhelmed and slightly flustered as he tries to run a rehearsal in which half the cast is missing. Exhausted at the end of the night he sits down. This seems so hard. And to a first-year-teacher with a position that generally merits two or three full-time teachers, hoping to live up to the expectations placed on him, wanting so badly to infuse some passion for the arts into cynical students, this is the hardest thing he has ever done. He is pouring all he has into this work, fighting with all he has to accomplish this task.
It would be easy for the tall-man with bright, yet tired, eyes to look condescendingly at the little-bright-eyed one. If learning to read and getting through kindergarten-level material is all you have to do, you have it easy. Just wait until you’re out of college, trying to be a man with a wife and a career and bills to pay, and a slew of kids to teach. Enjoy the ease of childhood while you can. Life just gets harder.
But though this is true, it is also true that this five-year-old is encountering the hardest circumstances he has yet faced in his life. To present him with the tasks of someone four times his age would be completely unrealistic. And for the one years ahead, it is completely unrealistic to compare work loads with a child in the midst of kindergarten. Of course kindergarten would be easy if you were in your mid-twenties with two-and-a-half decades of life experience.
You see, we all have a threshold, a maximum load that we’re capable of managing. As we age and mature our threshold will increase. We will be able to take on more, and successfully carry out and follow through with more and more. And, if we are continually moving forward, it should always seem as if we’re giving all we have to accomplish the tasks at hand. It is the pattern of the Christian life – continual growth, continual maturation, the continual increasing of our threshold that we may do greater works for the Kingdom.
I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. -Philippians 3:10-15
The path of maturation is one in which we are always giving all that we have. We will never rest, saying “I have arrived”, Or “this is all I can do.” At the same time, comparison will not be on our radar. There will always be people whose tasks – or life circumstances – seem easier, and people whose lives look much, much harder. To the one pursuing growth, they will recognize their own season as where God has them, knowing that He will guide and sustain them through what seems ‘too hard’. They will also trust that as they continue on their journey they will be strengthened by the Holy Spirit – and equipped thoroughly for whatever daunting circumstances lie ahead.
So go forth boldly but with contentment this Wednesday and into the rest of your week. Your tasks are hard – they are at the peak of your capabilities, be it learning to read or establishing a thriving choral and drama program at a small mountain school. Or learning to be a homemaker, or getting through college classes, or mothering small children. Be thankful for the hard – living at the edge of your threshold it is the pathway to maturation.
May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. -Hebrews 13:20-21