I bought a unicycle and it arrived about 10 days ago. One of the things that has really stood out to me is that learning to ride a unicycle changes the way you view success. Learning to ride is a very slow process at first. One the first day of practice you are just trying to sit on the unicycle without falling off while you lean against a wall or hold onto a rail. You may or may not try to move along the wall as you push the pedals. You think, “Man this is hard. What was I thinking?” You measure success in increments of “Hey! I only fell off twice in the last minute – woohoo!” That’s day 1. On day 2, you begin to try to turn the pedals as you push off the wall with one hand and wave your opposite hand wildly in the air. You get excited and say, “Hey! I made it three feet today!” On day 3, you get even more excited because you finally made it to the end of the garage. You look back, you see the streak of sweat that your hand left behind as you crept along the wall and proudly think to yourself, “I’m getting better. I made it across the garage and I haven’t had to call an ambulance yet! Now where’s that Advil?”
From there, the next day you set even more lofty goals – no more touching the wall, no more leaning against things. You go to the park and you get excited about wobbling 15 feet on a basketball court. The next day you try to make it to the 3-point line. Every day you challenge yourself to do just a little bit better and go just a little farther. Pretty soon, you can go all the way down the street without stopping. At least, that’s been my experience.
I know that I have a long way to go to become an accomplished rider. But I also know that I have been steadily making progress since that first day of practicing and falling in the garage less than 2 weeks ago. And as I think about how excited I have been with even the smallest increments of progress I am struck by the fact that in our society we rarely congratulate ourselves or anyone else on such small, tiny, incremental successes. Let’s face it, I have fallen off or had to abandon an attempt to ride that unicycle dozens and dozens of times each day. And yet I am continually excited about trying again and not giving up. I am continually excited and encouraged by doing just a little bit better today than I did yesterday. It even causes me to look forward to doing even a little better tomorrow.
I have found that I have offered myself more grace and patience while learning to ride the unicycle than I have offered myself in other areas and at other times of my life. I know there have been times in the past where I have been too critical of myself or too critical of others. We live in a society that demands instant success and immediate progress and does not provide allowances for falling down and having to pick oneself back up. In our society, we would rather point out the falls and the failures rather than praise the persistence and the progress – no matter how slight the progress may be. I am afraid that too often we get caught up in pursuit of perfection and as a result, we do not offer enough grace to ourselves or to others. When it comes to learning to ride a unicycle or just life in general, we need to practice the exhortation we find in Romans 15:5
Romans 15:5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus…
Maybe there is something different or new that you have been trying to learn or do and you find yourself frustrated by your falls and your failures. Don’t give up! Be patient. Emphasize and focus on the progress and the successes even if they are small. Challenge yourself to do just a little bit better today and go a little bit further today than you did yesterday. Be encouraged! Show yourself some grace and you’ll be surprised what you can accomplish.