Here’s a new twist on an old saying: “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly — until you can learn to do it well.”
Far too many of us won’t try to do the difficult until we feel that we can do it well, and we will never do it well until we first start by doing it poorly. Imagine telling a swimming instructor that we refuse to get into the pool until we can swim properly. Unless we jump in and splash around and put our head under the water and try to swim, poorly, we can’t ever swim well.
Another wise man has said, “Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly.” Far too many stand by the edge of the pool of life and refuse to get wet. A baby has to fall many times before learning to walk, and the falling is part of the learning process. We learn from our mistakes. Solomon tells us, “for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.” The bigger mistake is not to try. Jesus tells the parable of the talents where the man who received one talent was afraid to do anything with it and hid it in the earth. That man was rejected and cast into outer darkness. God gives us gifts and opportunities, and we are expected to use them in his service.
Are we willing to risk falling to walk in the way of the Lord? Not all falls are sins but it is a sin to refuse to try or to just lie there feeling sorry for ourselves when we do fall. We must get up again and again as we learn from our mistakes. God is patient with us when He knows we are trying, but He is displeased with those who will not try. God’s anger was kindled when Moses was afraid to take on the job of leading the children of Israel. Moses felt that he just couldn’t speak well, even though God told him that since God made the tongue, He would be with Moses’ mouth. Moses was afraid and wanted God to send someone else to do it. Jeremiah felt scared when God told him that his mission in life was to be a prophet to the nations. He said, “Ah, Lord God, behold I cannot speak, for I am a child.” But God told him not to be afraid of the faces of the people and that He would be with Jeremiah. Jeremiah felt unsuccessful, but God was with him because he continued to tell the people the message from God even though they didn’t want to hear.
Just as a wise parent will hold the hand of the little toddler as he tries to master the art of walking, God will help us if we are willing to try. God helped Moses to get started by telling Moses that he would send Aaron to help him, and Aaron could do the speaking. Later Moses became the leader God intended for him to be. We need to accept God’s helping hand and then to accept the challenge of working in his service. God said to Hagar about her son, Ishmael, “Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” When Jesus healed the epileptic boy we read “But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.” Similarly we can rely on the helping hand of our Heavenly Father, for both James and Peter tell us to “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
Our progress may be slow, but we must keep moving, even with baby steps, in the way of life for it is inaction rather than slow action that is a sin. Folks who stand still do not make footprints in the sands of time. We need to use our talents and grow in our walk in the Lord’s service. Think how many times a baby has to fall before learning to walk. Fortunately they do not give up — they get up and try again and again. We often can do more than we think we can but we won’t know until we try. Let us be willing to do it poorly and practice and practice until eventually we can do it well.
We can expect our path to the kingdom to be an obstacle course because Jesus has promised us that we will have trouble. He said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” He overcame and he wants us to overcome too. Salvation is not a do it yourself experience. We will often fall when we try to follow the Lord, but the lesson for us to learn is to keep on trying and keep on getting up each time we fall. We are thankful that there is forgiveness. We keep moving forward no matter how hard it is or how many times we end up flat on our face because we realize that God’s mighty hand is able to lift us up if only we will keep trying.
Let us remember that anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until we can learn to do it well. It is better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly. We need to accept the challenge and run with patience the race that is set before us, following Jesus who went before us. Let us humbly keep on trying to serve under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift us up in due time.
Robert J. Lloyd