February 4, 2011

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Making progress in life, one Lego at a time

Patti LambMy 6-year-old son, Henry, recently received an elaborate Lego set.

When he saw the giant box, he couldn’t stop smiling. He looked like a Cheshire cat.

His smile faded, however, when he realized that his father—our resident Lego expert—was gone for the day, and he was stuck with me, the world’s slowest Lego assembler.

“Aaaawe,” my son whined as he examined the complexity of the spaceship.

“Building that will take forever,” he said.

The instruction manual was thick, and the number of pieces was overwhelming. I secretly shared his pessimism. “This will, in fact, take forever,” I thought to myself.

We live in a fast-paced world of instant gratification. We want what we want, and we want it now: on demand. We don’t tolerate delays. We prefer instant coffee, speedy recoveries, express lanes and overnight shipping. Only quick fixes, please.

Unfortunately, we often overlook God’s time.

We forget the wisdom in the old saying that “all good things take time.” Not everything can be on the fast track. Some things in life happen on their own timelines.

Tomatoes in our gardens ripen when they are ready. Children reach milestones according to their own schedules. Even meals cooked in a Crock-Pot cannot be rushed.

Like my son with the Legos, when I set out to accomplish some lofty goal, I get overwhelmed when I’m starting at zero and the final destination seems so far away. I tend to overlook the fact that each effort in the right direction is progress.

“We’re making progress one Lego at a time,” I told my son. This also provided some consolation for me. I get especially frustrated when I work, but don’t have anything to show for it.

I have to remind myself that progress cannot always be measured. Usually, we chart progress by test scores, inches grown, skills mastered or training wheels removed from a bicycle. But I’m convinced that there is progress made when there is nothing to be shown for it on the surface. It’s not always manifest on the material plane.

Ordinary days are days of progress, even when they don’t feel that way. A line from one of my favorite devotionals, God Calling, says, “No day is lost which is given to God. God’s use of the day may not be apparent to us, but leave that to God.”

The Lego building that day was particularly “S-L-O-W.”

We managed to build one quarter of a spaceship over the course of a few hours.

That’s when Henry’s 3-year-old sister, Margaret, came to the table and, with one fell swoop of her arm, threatened to crush everything we had worked so hard at constructing.

I caught her arm in mid flight, attempting to ward off the crush of the building blocks and the battle that would ensue between the siblings.

“It’s OK, Mom,” Henry said.

“If she wrecks it, that’s not the end of the world,” he continued. “I can start over. I paid attention, and I know how to build it again.”

“That, son, is progress,” I thought to myself.

I felt my tear ducts swell. The progress made that day had nothing to do with Legos. After all, we didn’t have much to show for our efforts except a small portion of a spaceship. The real progress made was by a little boy who proved to be learning patience and understanding.

I’m learning that the most meaningful kinds of progress have little to do with what we can see. But pay attention, and you might feel progress in your heart.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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