When I was a kid growing up in California, I used to swim competitively. It was pretty serious. We swam every morning from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., and every evening from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. By the end of the day, it was quite within the realm of possibility to have swum upwards of five miles. We were pretty good.
Kids can get pretty good at the things they practice. It’s kind of scary, really, when you look at how accomplished some of our young people are. We’ve got kids in this church who sing like they’re heading to Broadway; kids who play soccer like they’re going to the Olympics; kids who are scary-smart and get great grades. We’ve got dancers and instrumentalists and athletes and scholars. We’ve got kids playing bells and kids learning how to be leaders; kids teaching other kids how to be good citizens and good friends. We are indeed blessed with an abundance of riches!
All this practice really does make a difference. Like I said before, it’s scary to watch how good kids can get at the things they work hard at doing. If it was me — at the age of 53 — taking up an instrument? Well… enough said.
But kids, can pick up stuff so quickly. Their young minds are like sponges. Everything they learn, everything they practice, can make such a huge difference in their lives. It practically goes on “the hard drive” of their little bodies, minds, and spirits.
And so, for that very reason, it is so important for us to respect and honor the shaping power of our faith – if we give it a chance. Practice, practice – it makes such a difference. It’s true whether we’re talking about football, ballet, playing the trumpet, or practicing the life of faith.
It takes practice to learn how to pray. It takes practice to learn how to center ourselves in God’s Spirit. It takes practice to discern what is good for us and what is soul-destroying. It takes practice to recognize when we are being tempted, and what to do in those circumstances. It takes practice to cultivate hope in the midst of times of personal despair. It takes practice to learn to stand up for what you believe in, even when you find yourself standing alone. These are faith-based practices, and it takes time to develop them.
What’s really important to remember is that these practices will last you a lifetime. You’ll never outgrow them. You’ll never get too old or too out of shape to do them. The more you practice, the deeper and richer the journey becomes.
So, let’s practice together — old and young alike. It’s what we’re here for. And, you know what? We’re pretty good at it.