Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.
I spoke these words to Ava after she had a nasty fall off her scooter while going downhill at the park. As she screamed through the pain and blood on her knees, arms, and chin, I held her and gently reminded her to breathe. As we cleaned her up and bandaged her wounds, she screamed more and fought against us, her fear taking control of her body. Then later, as we took those same bandages off, she screamed again. You would have thought that the warm water of her bath was hot lava and that we were torturing her as we dried her off, applied new bandages, and got her dressed. Each time we repeated these steps over the next few days, she screamed as if she was falling off the scooter again. The fear and anxiety were so much worse than the pain, but each time, we calmly reminded her to breathe.
When it takes twenty minutes to take off a Band-Aid, you start to wonder if it’s really worth it to be gentle and patient. In those moments, I feel a mix of both compassion and frustration. While I hate to see my baby in pain, I also want to rage against her anxiety that makes it all so much worse. More often that I care to admit, I let my frustration win out and overshadow the compassion. When she needs my comfort the most, sometimes I choose my own desire to move on from the discomfort of the moment.
But this time, I set aside my desire to control and instead did what I thought was best for Ava. I allowed her to have control over her body. I stayed calm, validated her emotions, and reminded her to breathe.
There are so many moments in parenting when I’m not sure if I’m doing the right thing, especially when it’s not producing the immediate results that I desire. It takes a lot of trial and error. I make mistakes and I apologize and then I try to do better next time. But often I can’t know the long-term effects of the ways that I interact with my kids. And sometimes, it feels like nothing “works” in the moment.
Whether I choose to speak gently and calmly with Ava in those moments of distress or whether I raise my voice and restrain her while I rip her bandages off, she’s still going to scream and cry. As much as I want to be in control, I can’t change the way she feels or the way she reacts. But maybe the present moment is not as important as the way she’s being shaped by my words. Maybe a calm presence, a gentle touch, and a lot of patience will help her to grow in resilience in the future.
Faith is a lot like that. It’s not about immediate results. It’s not about believing enough that we’ll receive what we want. It’s not about following a proven 5-step plan complete with alliteration.
Faith is in the wrestling. Faith is in the falling down and getting back up again. Faith is in the mundane, ordinary moments of putting one foot in front of the other because we believe that at some point along the way, things will get better. Faith is in laying down our interests for the sake of others because we believe that we all flourish when we love those around us. Faith is living in line with God’s wisdom even when our own human desires are shouting out its contradictions.
The wisdom that comes from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. – James 3:17-18
Faith is often less about moving mountains and more about planting seeds. We plant seeds of peace and mercy through the words we speak and the ways that we engage the pain around us. And we hope that those seeds take root and eventually grow into something beautiful. But that journey from the planting to the fruit often takes much longer than we would like. It’s full of circumstances that we can’t control. Often, the only thing we can control is whether we continue to shower love on those seeds we’ve planted.
Every once in a while, we get a glimpse of the fruit of our labor. Maybe it’s God gracious reminder that the long, hard journey is worth it and encouragement to keep moving forward in the same direction. Those are sacred moments, though they’re sometimes easy to miss when we’re more focused on immediate results and instant gratification.
Last week, I had one of those sacred moments as I sat on the floor holding my left foot after kicking the coffee table. As my toes throbbed and I did my best to hold in all the things I wanted to yell out, Ava sat down beside me, kissed my forehead, and told me I was going to be okay. Then, she proceeded to say, “Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.”
Maybe those hours spent holding Ava and biting my tongue while reminding her to breathe didn’t produce the results I wanted in the moment. But maybe she internalized it more than I realized. If the seeds that were planted in those moments taught her to sit with others in their pain and show empathy, I think that’s worthy fruit.
Breathe in. Breathe out. It’s going to be okay.
Is there an area where you are wondering if your actions are making any difference? Are you struggling to keep moving forward in a way that aligns with your values? Hold that in your heart while you breathe in God's peace and breathe out your anxiety.