Have you ever had one of those days where nothing goes right? Where your words come out all wrong, you mess up everything you try to accomplish, and whatever you touch seems to crumble in your hands? Days like this can make it easy to get discouraged.
Sometimes it seems like our efforts are worthless. How can we ever please God with anything we do when we are so flawed and we fall into sin over and over again? What joy can an infinite, all-powerful, and perfect God find in such limited, imperfect, tiny little beings like us? God lacks nothing; there is nothing we can offer Him to make Him more complete or fulfilled. And even when we try to offer Him the small things, we often mess up.
When I am tempted to think that I am not good enough, I remember a lesson that I learned while teaching Sunday School to first graders during my first year of college. Keeping the students’ attention was not always easy, so I tried to use pictures and activities as teaching tools. Watching the kids learn was fascinating. Even at age 6, there were some students who displayed an impressive amount of talent in all of the activities. Others were still working on developing coordination and they struggled with some of the crafts and coloring projects.
At the end of the class, the kids would all crowd around me to show me what they had made. Looking at all their creations lined up was nothing short of endearing. But the ones that struck me the most were the ones that hadn’t turned out quite right – the picture that was not colored in the lines or the project with pieces in the wrong place. It really made my day to watch the children who struggled to assemble their projects and persevered despite their frustration. They were so proud when they finally finished their work. And it was beautiful to see their faces light up when they looked at their completed, albeit slightly sloppy, product.
When I feel like I can’t do anything right, I remember those 6-year-olds who persevered with their drawings and crafts so that they would have something to show their parents at the end of the day. The parents always loved their children’s work, no matter how imperfect, because of the effort that was put into it. I like to think that this is how our Heavenly Father sees us. Even though we struggle and fail over and over, we can persevere to make our lives an offering to Him. Although they will certainly be flawed, He finds our offerings all the more beautiful because we continue trying, even when we cannot seem to get it right.
Christ tells us that we must be childlike if we are to follow him (Matthew 18:3, 19:14). I have often heard this explained as meaning that we must acknowledge our dependence on our Heavenly Father and abandon ourselves with complete trust to His holy will. But my experience teaching Sunday School showed me another aspect of what it means to be childlike - the perseverance of a first grader who is determined to finish his art project. This childlike perseverance in the face of frustration is a quality we should seek to imitate, remembering that God loves our sincere effort, even when we offer Him a less-than-perfect product.
Lent is a time when we focus on repentance and turning away from sin. This involves recognizing and reflecting on our many failures. Yet Lent is meant to be a time of hope, not despair. Rather than being overwhelmed by our faults, we should admit our weaknesses and then turn to Christ as the source of our strength. This Lent, let us face our sins and failures with courage and the resolve to improve. Let us not get discouraged by setbacks and shortcomings, but instead embrace an attitude of childlike perseverance, continuing to do better while remembering God’s perfect love for his imperfect children.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.