Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Keep Moving. Be Strong. Focus on What's Ahead.

“With eyes of faith consider the greatness of your mission and the wonderful amount of good which you can accomplish.” 

-Bl. Basil Moreau, Christian Education

My daughter Elizabeth has been trying to ride a bike, with pedals and without training wheels, for about the past year. On a steady program of balance bikes since she was about 3, we spent copious amounts of time outside throughout the spring, summer and fall of this past year on a pedal bike trying to help her master the steering, balance, movement and stopping required to ride without the steady hand of myself or my wife.

There were moments. She would get a few pedal revolutions and a bit of coasting before she would either push off with a grounded foot or stop altogether.

My main advice throughout this process was simple: moving forward helps you to stay balanced, be strong with your arms, and keep your head up so that your eyes focus just a bit out in front of you.

Keep moving, be strong, keep your head up, and look at where you’re going.

Movement will help you stay balanced. While the other pieces of advice made sense, this one is counterintuitive. It seems that going slowly would provide more safety. However, this actually makes riding that much harder, if not impossible. As part of a faculty retreat, I had teachers try to ride a bike as slowly as possible the length of our basketball court without putting down a foot. No one was able to do it. Going slowly inhibited their ability to move forward.

Vision is the movement which can help us stay balanced and continuing to move forward. It can help propel us into the future by focusing not on what something currently is, but rather by unleashing the hope of what something can become.

You can’t ride a bike by just sitting on it. You have to start moving. You have to begin and believe that you will keep moving. You must have vision. You must have faith. You must have hope.

Hope has immense power. Imagine trying to learn how to ride a bike without the hope that one day you will be able to ride it? Without the vision and hope of actually being able to ride, you wouldn’t even try. Howard Hendricks, a long-time professor at the Dallas Theological Seminary, stated, “Discouragement is the anesthetic the devil uses on a person before he reaches in and carves out his heart.”

Hope, on the other hand, sustains and fuels the vision of what something, or someone can become. It is the power of “yet” in growth mindset theory. It is the belief that students can improve and learn anything through deliberate practice. It is the trust that formative discipline can create disciples. It is the conviction that there is no progress without struggle; death must proceed the Resurrection.

As a principal I had the blessing of working closely with a student who struggled both academically and behaviorally. In severe danger of either failing as an 8th grader and/or facing expulsion before the end of the year, I began working with this student on a daily basis. At one point, after about two weeks of making progress toward academic proficiency and behavioral stability, the student looked at me and with a seriousness I hadn’t witnessed before and asked, “Do you really think this will work? Do you really think I can do this?”

To which I responded, “Of course I do. You just need to keep moving forward. Be strong and keep focusing on what you can become.”

Hope is the fuel that propels vision.

It is the necessary ingredient to passing 8th grade.

It is the way that we can, on Christmas morning after months of wobbles and falls, successfully ride a bike.

It is the movement that can enable us to accomplish the God-sized dreams He has planted inside of our hearts.

Keep hoping.

Keep dreaming.

Keep moving and be strong, with your head up and eyes focused on what lies ahead.