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concentrate and repeat

Remember when this seemed impossible?

Whether you remember your own frustration or have observed that of a child’s, learning to tie your shoes is no small feat. (Pun intended!)

And even when you understand the mechanics, it’s hard to get all the pieces in position and in play at the same time – shoe, laces, fingers, thumbs and of course holding your tongue just right.

It requires supreme concentration, right? And lots and lots of practice.

As I put on my own shoes this morning and tied them effortlessly, I thought of Tiny struggling to tie hers on Saturday. 

She was determined and relentless and stubborn, and she didn’t give up until the task was accomplished.

I’m still thinking and processing from my post the other day, about habits.

Trying to find that balance between determination, relentlessness, concentration on the making of a new habit, yet giving myself grace when it’s slow going, and even when I fail.

We have to give ourselves time to learn, and remember we need a teacher. We need to have the space to fail, because don’t we often learn the most from the fails? 

I wonder how many times someone showed her, with patience and love, how to tie those shoes? And how many times must she have attempted and failed before she finally got it right? And even now, when she knows the mechanics, it’s slow going and her complete concentration is required. And even when she does get them tied, the result is sometimes a little sloppy.

But we all know that as time goes on, and she practices and practices and practices, it won’t be long before it’s effortless for her as well.

So as I ponder this desire, this decision really, to cultivate the virtues that make me more like Jesus, even as I concentrate and am jaw-clenchingly determined, I’m struck by that picture. And I remember that she sat there for a full 90 seconds getting that shoe tied.

Practice, yes.

Concentrate, yes.

Be determined, yes.

But I need a Teacher. This doesn’t come naturally.

Will I be a slow learner? Most likely.

Will I fail? Most definitely.

But I must hush up that inner critic and listen for the voice of God instead. I must let Him show me again, and again, and again, what love and kindness and perseverance and knowledge and self-control and godliness look like.

And I have to love and persevere and be kind and control myself time and again and unlike tying shoes I’m never going to get this completely right as long as I live.

But as I practice and fail and learn and mess up and grow and change and be determined, I can be assured that new habits will be formed, and that this new formation will look more like Jesus, and I will bear His image a little brighter and bolder and maybe, just maybe, some of it will seem almost effortless someday. 

In the meantime, though, I’ll expect to trip over my laces from time to time, and to look to the Teacher for repeat lessons.



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  1. RJ Thesman RJ Thesman

    How many times do we just give up and go get some Velcro shoes? How many times do we just go the easy route and miss the lessons of perseverance? I know I do.

  2. Angie Clayton Angie Clayton

    Me too – all too often! Sometimes the frustration leads directly into Velcro, and I wonder what lessons I have missed as a result.

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