Our eight-year-old son Alex is an extremely picky eater. And when I say picky, I mean there are only a few foods he willingly eats. He does not try new food items without a major argument. Mealtimes can be a struggle to say the least. Vacations can be tough because it’s not always easy to find restaurants that serve the correct kind of chicken tenders (not too crispy) or pizza (thin crust only). On our recent trip to New Orleans, we lucked out and stumbled upon some restaurants where Alex actually ate. We told him we were proud of his effort. I guess he took that to heart because when we arrived back home, he told us he thought he’d done a good job eating while on vacation. Then, he said, “I think it’s a sign of growth.” He left the room, and Ben and I laughed. What kid says that?
I’ve been thinking about his pronouncement. Believe me, Alex’s issues with food are not resolved. He refused to even take one bite of pizza the other night because it was too doughy. But he decided that eating well for one week was enough to proclaim victory. He chose to see himself in a positive light even in a situation that routinely challenges him.
I tend to shrug off small steps forward. I frequently focus on the negatives in any given situation. I dismiss most any type of advance that is less than a complete and total win. I don’t give myself credit if the job is well done but unfinished. This approach can stunt my emotional and spiritual growth.
For example, I love the music and the sentiment of the song “I Surrender All.” The lyrics begin with “All to Jesus I surrender. All to Him I freely give.” I know that while total trust and surrender to God may be the goal, I will never achieve it. I will never reach a point where I can definitively say that I’ve surrendered every aspect of my life to Jesus. Do I hope to trust God completely someday? Of course. But knowing myself, I know that will not be my reality no matter how much I pray or try. So, most of the time when I hear that song, I just feel like a failure.
But I have a set of inspirational cards called “The Universe Has Your Back” by Gabrielle Bernstein. Recently, I turned over a card that said, “When I think I’ve surrendered, I surrender more.” I thought, yes – I can do that. I can always try to move toward God. I will not reach perfection, but I can be faithful in my effort to trust a little more every day.
God doesn’t look at us in disgust when we fall short in our faith. Instead, I’m convinced that God sees us trying to trust, to surrender, to be more like Jesus and is pleased. God celebrates the small steps just like Alex did. God looks at us with love and says, “I think it’s a sign of growth.”