Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Struggle Virtue

"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win." John F. Kennedy, 1962

My husband quotes this speech to our kids often. He shortens it to, "We choose to [do these things] not because they are easy, but because they are hard." It's used as an encouragement to a child who is frustrated and trying to give up on homework/chores/project/anything. It's a pep talk of sorts, to keep them on track, to help them plod through. To bolster their resolve, in order to finish the task.

It doesn't always work.

Our kids give up quickly. They are easy to come to me and say, "Mom, I need your help," when they don't really need my help. They get frustrated when something seems too big, too daunting. And while I may have been quick to come to their rescue when they were younger, I am starting a weaning process that should have been done years ago. I want my kids to view struggle not as a weakness or failing, but as a strength. After I heard THIS NPR STORY, it reaffirmed something that I knew to be true. In the west, we put so much emphasis on our natural ability, on our inherent skills, rather than the process. We say that a kid is good at something because they are smart, or athletic, or artistic. But if they can't do something, we allow them to push it aside in favor of something they can do.

I think of kids who are forced to play piano (not so common as it used to be). They hate it, they complain, but they do it. They are made to practice, practice, practice. And then, guess what? They can play the piano. I think about scientists who work for years and years and years on the same problem, daily putting in their hours for a solution and coming up empty at the end of the day. I think about artists who don't whip up a painting in 30 minutes, but work for months and years making sure it is just right. Thomas Edison said it perfectly, "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." Struggle should be a natural part of the learning process.

There is so much in the scripture about hard work, too. There's a bunch of Proverbs that summarize to this: The more you work, the better you'll eat. And then there's this one in the second testament:"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters." Colossians 3:23

God told Noah to build an ark. He told him how. But He didn't do it for him.

God told the Israelites to build a temple. He told them how. But He didn't do it for them.

Jesus told His disciples to go and make disciples IN EVERY NATION. That's a load of work. And hard. And dangerous. But He left them with, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20

If I am to make people who will go forth from my house into the world, I want them to be brave. I want them to persevere. I want them to change the world.

And I don't want them to call me and say, "But Mo-ommm, it's too haa-aard."

Just as my friend Jen put it HERE in her blog about raising brave and dangerous (in the good way) kids, so I also want my kids to have the skills to see struggle as a part of life, to view adversity as an opportunity to overcome.

Academically, I want them to flourish. In life, to persevere. In faith, to learn patience and value struggle and accept the big big challenges from the Lord. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

In the Quiet

I've been fake-reading a book (listening to an audiobook) called, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. Now, before you go ahead and state the obvious, I KNOW I'm not an introvert, okay? My Myers-Briggs personality is ENTP, with Extrovert right there at the beginning. But I'm married to an 'introvert'. (You can stop rolling your eyes at the thought of Billy being shy.) He's an introvert in the cerebral sense. He's a thinker, and prefers the solitude of fishing and hunting, and craves routine, whereas I prefer community and urban life and spontaneity. I'm pretty sure that two of my three kids are introverted. Again, NOT SHY. Read the book.

I'm starting to understand the value of introspectivity. We have so little time in our over-scheduled world. We fill it the second we get it. FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, YouTube, StumbleUpon, WordsWithFriends, SongPop, texting, [insert your own vice here]. And we don't allow silence. Since moving just out of the city, I've found myself with a little extra time. Not much, but a little. And once I get past all the time fillers, I find silence waiting for me to call, like a long lost friend. I've been reading more. I've been thinking more. I've been sitting in silence more.

And now I'm a teensy bit addicted to silence. It's so important.

It's where I work out how I feel.

It's where I remember.

It's where I create.

It's where I meditate and pray.

It's where I listen.

It's where I breathe.

As I embark upon 2013, I want to make space for more silence. I want to go against my extroverted-must-have-human-interaction tendencies, and embrace my inner introvert. It starts with some mild solitude, but I also hope that it spills into other areas of my life. That I will allow time to think before I speak. That I will allow time for my children to have silence. That I will let others lead conversation, and think about what they're saying and not what I'm going to say next.

It's important to see the balance of these personalities. Just as we force introverts into the open, into social situations, into business presentations where they stretch themselves to meet the social expectation of extroversion and interaction, so we extroverts must see the value of the other side, must allow ourselves to look inward, to enjoy silence and routine, and find things there that we didn't know we had. That we hadn't ever allowed for. To find ourselves...

...in the quiet.