Like many women I know, I’m on the type A spectrum. I’m extremely focused and very goal oriented. I like to make lists and to have a game plan. My thinking is very linear and I’m all about finding efficiencies and developing a process to make things happen.
Most of the time in life these characteristics have served me well. I worked hard through high school and college, and graduated on time with (fairly) decent grades. I’ve worked hard in my career, and have progressed accordingly. I’ve even worked hard at relationships, and have found that when I put time and effort in, for the most part, they succeed.
Overall, in my life I have found that Knowledge + Hard work + Time = Achievement
But what happens when you’ve educated yourself, put in the work, have performed all tasks correctly, and things don’t go as planned? What if you work even harder and still don’t see progress? Does that make you a failure?
That’s a scenario I often struggle with as it relates to Maddie. She has some developmental delays, so currently she’s in physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech. Our big goals are crawling, walking, feeding, and communicating. The therapy sessions are a time to teach Nate and I the exercises- but the real work takes place at home. During each session we dutifully take notes and photos, and try to incorporate everything that we’ve learned into our routine at home.
Some weeks we see progress, and on those weeks, our therapist will compliment us: “She did really well this week! You must’ve been working with her a lot at home!”
More often, we don’t see progress. But believe me, that does not mean that we haven’t been working with her at home. We’re consistent in the work, but some weeks it just doesn’t pay off. And sometimes we actually see more progress when we give her a break (see: Babies Need Vacations, Too).
To say the lack of progress is frustrating would be an understatement. Nate and I so badly want to see her hit the milestones. It’s easy to put extra pressure on ourselves: If we only had more time to work with her, perhaps she would be progressing more quickly. It’s also tempting to base our self-worth as parents on Maddie’s achievement, and believe that we are failing her.
I recently shared my concerns with a dear friend, confiding that I felt responsible for Maddie’s lack of progress, and wondering how I could make more time in my day to be working with her. She helped me see that I was putting far too much pressure on myself. And that by taking full responsibility for Maddie’s progress, I was cutting God’s grace out of the equation:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9
At that moment a weight was lifted off my shoulders because I realized that my equation has been off all along. God’s grace in any situation far outweighs any amount of knowledge, hard work or time. When I have achieved in life it has only been through God’s grace. And when Maddie achieves, the same is true.
We will obviously continue to work with her diligently. But this is a powerful reminder that when we feel like a failure, God’s grace makes up for our weaknesses. And I echo the Apostles Paul’s sentiments that I will rejoice in my short comings so that God’s power will take over, and mold Maddie into everything that she’s meant to be.