Watching my two and a half year old clean up can be a painful experience. Pick up two board books, try to untangle a third from a blanket, drop one, pick it up, free the blanket one and bend to pick it up, drop the other two, pick these two up, step forward to get the third, stumble over the blanket, drop one, bend, pick up ALL three, take two steps, drop one. On and on. As an infinitely more capable adult (or big sibling) watching this process can be torture. The desire to step in and make it smooth, efficient, painless can be almost impossible to resist. But the most shocking part of the whole process is that, ultimately, it works. The books end up on the shelf, and my little girl is slightly puffed up with pleasure at a job well done.
Why does it work? Certainly not through efficiency, speed or accuracy. It works through continual, small (sometimes futile) efforts.
“Little and often.” I first heard this quote from my mom, which she heard from another artist about making time for creative efforts, but I’ve been thinking about how it applies to any effort—particularly spiritual effort.
Turn to the Lord: think of Him, take a deep breath, trust Him for this moment, utter a tiny prayer. Just do it, it doesn’t have to be big and certainly not perfect. But do it often.
For years I have been trying to make gratitude a bigger part of my life. For the last year and a half that has taken the form of writing a daily gratitude for my husband. It is sometimes very brief, sometimes left undone for a few days so I have to play catch up. It sometimes feels manufactured and pointless, and I have to force myself to do it. Yet because I do it, taken all together my book of gratitudes is not so little.
Little and often. Does this resonate with you? It certainly helps me to remember (for the eightieth time) that growth doesn’t have to (isn’t supposed to) be fast or big, it just needs to be worked at consistently. What are the little and often spiritual practices that work for you?
I like the thought of embracing my inner two year old who is at once so maddeningly inefficient, and so impressively persistent. And if she can get the job done, maybe I can too. It’s of course not the sweeping change I want, but it is powerful. Because after all, the Lord Himself told us that this is how He will change us: “Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land.” (Exodus 23:30)