When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:11-12 (NRSV)
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4 (NIV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 (RSV)
Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14 (NRSV)
Last summer when the W’s and their parents came for a visit, we had a “discussion” about the relationship between parents and children. Andy told Winston to do something he did not want to do; Winston informed all of us that he wouldn’t be doing it. I solemnly intoned a Bible verse from Ephesians 6 emphasizing the need for children to obey their parents. (My theological offering was met with considerably less than perfect joy.) Though I fully expected a direct attack on the concept of obedience itself, Winston adopted the bypass maneuver: “I am NOT a child anymore!” he replied, “I’m like...a teenager.” Oh, no, you are not, I replied; you won’t be a teenager til you’re 13. “Maybe so,” he conceded, wilting somewhat, “but I am definitely not a child anymore.” When he made that statement, almost a year ago, I might have continued to argue with him - except for the general foolishness of arguing with anybody over anything. But now I cannot. He may not be a teenager yet, but at 10&1/2, Winston is not a child anymore. He’s a “‘tween” or, as sociologists call them, an early adolescent. When I think about his childhood dropping away, I want to cry; he won’t get another chance to be a child, and he was an amazing child. But when I think of all the ways he is growing and changing, I’m excited for Winston, because moving forward is what it’s all about. There is no such thing as standing still in this life (though there is such a thing as being “stuck”): either we are moving ahead on the journey, or we are slipping backwards, whether we know it or not. Of course, as Wesleyans, we believe we’re on the way to perfection; but we acknowledge the reality of backsliding - and sometimes practice it. One of the many ways Winston is maturing is in the development of patience and perseverance. Don’t get me wrong; he’s always been persistent, sometimes irritatingly so. But now, he is capable of patiently persevering towards a desired goal. For his tenth birthday, his Papi and I gave him a Harry Potter Lego set he’d been wanting for a while. “Hagrid’s Castle” it is called - all 6,022 pieces of it. (Remarkably, his Mother is still speaking to me.). The kit was marked “Ages 16 and Above”, but I wasn’t worried. Winston can put anything together (or tear anything apart). He’s a born engineer, and technology is his natural habitat. Two years ago, when he was only 8, his favorite summer camp was “Coding of Robots.” When I asked him what it was all about, he told me in great detail. Sadly, I didn’t understand a single word he said...but I digress. Although the reviews of “Hagrid’s Castle” indicated that most buyers needed several months to complete the set, Winston had whizzed through the first third of the project in a few weeks, when he began “pacing himself” as his father put it, “because he’s enjoying the process so much.” God bless him, he’s already learning what so many of his elders struggle with: “pressing on toward the goal” as St. Paul puts it, requires patience and perseverance, but it can also bring deep satisfaction and even joy, when we remember to appreciate the journey along the way. Sometimes the journey is so painful or exhausting that it simply isn’t possible to speak of enjoying the process; it’s all we can do to keep “straining forward to what lies ahead.” Even then, though - perhaps especially then - we can persevere in patience, remembering that the One to whom we entrust the journey is the One who called us to it and is perfecting us through it, “until we are mature and complete.” Thankfully, the Master of the journey is also our Companion in the way - and that’s a good thing, since for now we know only in part. No worries, as they say Down Under; we are sojourning in the presence of the One who knows it all, and knows it fully, just as we ourselves are fully known. If we fix our eyes upon Jesus, we’ll always be moving in the right direction. Embrace the journey with joy, Winston. Celebrate each step along the way. But don’t expect me to hurry you. Pace yourself, please. I’m enjoying the process too much. Thou my everlasting Portion, More than friend or life to me;
All along my pilgrim journey,
Savior, let me walk with Thee.
Close to Thee, close to Thee,
Close to Thee, close to Thee.
All along my pilgrim journey,
Savior, let me walk with Thee.
(United Methodist Hymnal, # 407) Day by day, dear Lord, of Thee three things I pray: To see Thee more clearly, to love Thee more dearly, to follow Thee more nearly, day by day. (Richard, Bishop of Chichester, 1253) Pastor Susan Pate Greenwood