One of my favorite Spanish phrases is "poco a poco", meaning "little by little".
In our family, we are seeing this phrase played out in real life. Benjamin is taking swimming lessons, and Jonathan has been walking for about a month.
With both of these new adventures, we are witnessing gradual progress, celebrated every step of the way. Our sons receive praise and encouragement for doing what they can do when they can do it. They are thrilled with the joy of accomplishment every time they stretch their ability a little bit further. And each success breeds the confidence and daring required to push further still, and accomplish a little more.
There's no rush, no pressure, no stress. No comparisons to others, no disappointment with how long these things take. No foot-tapping, clock-watching, or throat-clearing. No sighs or eye rolls. No frowns over the imperfect, partial steps taken in the process of getting to the goal. No despair over the occasional step backward.
We know that one day we will have two boys who walk, run, climb, jump, and swim like anyone else who has the ability to do these things.
Overnight mastery is the last thing we would ever expect. At the same time, the last thing we would ever accept would be no progress at all. We never expected these changes to happen suddenly, quickly, or at our convenience. But, we did, and do, expect them to happen. A child who is not growing or developing is taken to a doctor to figure out what's wrong.
A parent who is impatient with a child's development is seen as unreasonable, if not abusive. A parent who is unconcerned about, or unaware of, delays in development is seen as neglectful.
Either extreme presents danger to a child, and exposes a misguided attitude on the part of a parent.
While it's easy to see these dangers in the upbringing of our children, it's not always easy to remember them in a spiritual context. Christians commonly refer to a newly baptized believer as a "babe in Christ". But, do we take into account the full meaning of that expression?
If you've ever had a newborn, an infant, or a toddler in your home, do you remember what it was like? Do you remember all the things you didn't expect them to do for themselves, all the ways in which you made a special effort to care for and accommodate them, and yet, all the high hopes and dreams you had for what they would do and become in the future? Do you remember refusing to go to the extremes of being too demanding or simply neglectful?
What is the experience of the new Christian in the church?
May it be like the experience of children growing up in a godly home. May a new Christian find the time and space needed to grow and develop, with encouragement every step of the way. Not rushed into maturity, but not left to prolonged immaturity. Not forced into service, but not forgotten, either.
May every new Christian find a spiritual family with the faith to celebrate his progress, "poco a poco".
Are we prepared to provide a safe home for a newcomer?