I stood in my daughter’s room this morning looking at the pictures of her with various Disney princesses. These photos were taken over three years ago. She was adorable, as she is today. Parents you can identify with what I was feeling The difference in that version of her compared to the present day version was a little mesmerizing. My, how she has grown. My son, somewhere in the middle of the night, transitioned from our little boy to a big boy. I can’t tell you the exact night, but it certainly caught us off guard. The truth is, in the crucible of parenting, you are so focused on the task at hand…on meeting their needs…on offering love…on keeping schedules and making sure they stay fed…that it’s easy to be a little blind to how much they have grown and developed. You just look up one day and realize they are different.
Yet, those living outside your home often have the ability to clearly identify how much they have changed. I can’t tell you how many times friends have looked at our son in amazement at how much he has grown. Those friends who only see them once every couple of months, and those grandparents who only see them four or five times a year have a unique vantage point which allows them a different perspective. They aren’t so captivated by the unending demands of raising them in the moment. They simply look and see. The time gaps, the distance, often allows them to perceive growth and development more clearly than mom and dad in the throes of parenting.
This is often true of our own spiritual and emotional development as well. It is difficult to accurately identify how much, or little, we have grown. We are living in the moment. However intentional our efforts and rhythms, it remains challenging to maintain a proper, factual grasp on just how far we have come and how far we have yet to go. I believe one of the reasons we are prone to personal frustration is because we are trying to better ourselves, enhance our spiritual and emotional existence, in the vacuum of self. We make our life so “personal”, even to the degree of giving our faith the label “personal relationship with Jesus”, that we unintentionally inhibit our ability to assess improvement. Simply stated, our view of self is limited and we would be wise to enlist the eyes of others to help us along the way.
This is true with the organization or church we lead as well as the skills we are working on. I have the joy of traveling to churches and preaching. It allows me a frame of reference which is unique and valuable for the purpose of encouraging. Often, I will go to a church, preach and then be invited back months later. When I walk through those doors the second time, I haven’t been wading through all the decisions made, the delicacies of interpersonal relationships, the financial situation or the politics. I simply walk in and see what its like now, compared to the last time. It is so fun to walk in and see growth, development, progress…at times a pastor will be fatigued, discouraged, stressed…unable to see how far they have come. I love being the outside observer offering encouragement. I love affirming their labor is working. I also enjoy watching people evolve in their skills and talent, to listen to a young person sing when they are 16 and then not hear them again until they are 17. They typically have no idea just how far they have come.
It would serve us well to, on occasion, allow others with a more removed vantage point to speak into our life and world. They often see what we cannot. You will likely discover you are doing better than you thought. And along the way, never hesitate or be sparse with affirmation and encouragement when from afar you observe that someone’s efforts are creating progress. You might not be in the heat of battle with them…this doesn’t disqualify your voice. In many ways it qualifies it.