stories about process
Yesterday, my almost-2-year-old toddled by my side, chattering and communicating with her typical 2-word phrases while I packed up her bottles in one room, and her onesies in another, to put away for another baby, a cousin maybe, another time. Just like that, she has moved into a new stage where she doesn't need those things. Thankfulness for growth outweighs the sadness of leaving the past behind, but only marginally. That went so fast. Everyone always said it would, and I even believed them, and even then, it went so fast.
As with many things in life, it was only when I finally came to peace with motherhood as a process that I could fully settle into it. The days that refine me and that refine my children are not interruptions to life... they are life. Settling into this process changes the way that I view and handle everything - especially all of our growing pains and mistakes (mine and the children's).
Late last year, I followed a training plan for a half-marathon. The goal often seemed distant, so I knew I could not wait to enjoy the experience until just that final run. I had to appreciate the fresh air and the new perspective and the opportunity to get my heart pumping all 4 days of training in each of the 10 weeks! The purpose of the entire exercise was to prepare my body to run longer... and every part of the process counted as I learned to mentally and physically adjust to the strain. The things I was experiencing through daily discipline were part of the gift. The end of the final run was only going to bring brief victory, but the lessons learned in training - such as perseverance, tenacity, and overcoming - and the changes to my physical body still filter into aspects of my life in various ways.
Several months later now, I've stepped into a new discipline plan with some friends, spiritually-focused rather than physical this time. Many of the things that running did for my body physically, this plan is doing for me spiritually. It is a process, it is practice, it is daily learning and growing toward a distant goal. I cannot wait for the goal to simply arrive, because I'd be ill-prepared to participate in the goal, and I'd also have missed out on so many days of sweet intimacy with Jesus in the intervening time. Once again, the process is the point. It's not like the only purpose of the process is to get me to the goal. The purpose of the process is also to sustain me daily.
On a whim during a few weeks of sickness this past month, I potty-trained my youngest daughter. She recently fell deep into toddlerhood, succumbing to the strong opinions and unbecoming fits that sometimes form around that age. I was shocked to see how the discipline of potty-training pulled her out of some of that... the process itself was beneficial for her. Eventually, the process also led to an end goal, which is that she can now communicate effectively her bathroom needs! But the process itself was a discipline that drew her out of herself, into a higher purpose. I definitely don't mean to be over-dramatizing the experience, but it was a vivid picture for me of why process is important. Learning and growing together through her mistakes and accidents drew us (teacher and student) closer together relationally, and she visibly grew in confidence and character. Were it possible for me, at the snap of fingers, to simply will her to move from diapers to underwear in a matter of minutes... all the benefits of the process would be lost.
One of the tasks in front of me... behind me... around me right now is wallpaper removal at a rental property we recently purchased. If there were ever a pointless process, that definitely seems like one... oh, to step back in time and understand why this particular paper seemed like a good idea. All of the grief and hours of work and scraping I could be avoiding right now if someone had just chosen a different method of finishing the wall! I think I would be despairing about now, had I not recently been learning about the importance of process. This is the necessary task at hand, and I could choose to resent the necessity and every moment of it... but this is what must be done for restoration of the room. When I approach the project with patience, seeing it as an opportunity to bring new life, understanding that doing the work will ultimately feel fulfilling and accomplished... the process is as important as the results.
The process of raising children has been, and will continue to be, God's way of growing me and spreading the Gospel at the same time. It's actually a very efficient process, even though it doesn't always feel that way. Slowly, over time and through experience, I am learning to know Him more. Slowly, over time and through experience, my children are learning what they need to know more. A quick fix, instant change, or sudden acquisition of the knowledge wouldn't have the same effect. God-ordained processes settle us into where we are and work into and through our hearts, molding us and shaping us gently into something we could not be otherwise.
There is purpose in the process, and the process is the point.