by Father Mark Goldasich
When was the last time you did something new?
As autumn begins on Monday, it’s triggering a desire in me to try something new. Just as quickly, though, another voice tells me that I’m too old to learn, don’t have the time to fit anything more into my schedule and probably wouldn’t be good at it anyway.
When tempted to stay in my rut, I remember this little story:
As a group of frogs was traveling through the woods, two of them fell into a deep pit. When the other frogs crowded around and saw how deep the pit was, they told the two unfortunate frogs there was no hope for them.
At first, the two decided to try and jump out of the pit anyway. Despite their efforts, the group of frogs at the top shouted that they should just give up, that they would never make it out.
Eventually, one of the frogs took heed to what the others were saying and gave up, falling down to his death. The other frog continued to jump as hard as he could. Again, the crowd yelled at him to stop the pain and just succumb to his fate.
At this, the frog jumped even harder and finally made it out. As he emerged from the pit, the other frogs said, “Didn’t you hear us?”
Thoroughly puzzled, the frog explained to them that he was deaf. He thought that the crowd had been shouting encouragement to him the whole time! (Adapted from “Top 100 Motivational Stories,” by Meir Liraz.)
If we want to jump from the pit of our routines, we need to silence those inner (and sometimes outer) voices that discourage us. There’s a lavish world out there that God wants us to discover.
The second step is to pray for the patience and humility to be a beginner. Sometimes, even after taking a first step toward something new, we give up because we’re not experts at it immediately or we feel out of our league or out of control.
Let’s face it, there’s an art to beginning something. Hannah Braime, a personal development coach, helps people to “be a beginner.” She recommends focusing on doing a little at a time, often. Anything new can be overwhelming if we try to embrace it all at once. Taking one small step, often, will pay dividends over the long haul.
Braime also advises keeping a journal. That way, when it appears you’re making no progress on your new project, you can go back to your journal and see how far you’ve come from when you first started.
Finally, she suggests celebrating small wins. For example, if you’re learning how to meditate and just made it 30 seconds without your mind wandering, rejoice!
Doing something new can also include experiences. The calendar page of The Leaven lists a wide variety of happenings throughout the archdiocese. If you’d like to experience a parish mission or retreat or do centering prayer, we’ve got you covered. If you’re looking to find a tasty meal outside of your usual haunts, we’ve got plenty of parishes to help with that.
I believe that the Lord doesn’t want us to rust out, but to wear out.
The poet William Wordsworth understood that when he pointed to an apple tree in bloom and said, “That tree is very old, but I never saw prettier blossoms on it than it now bears. That tree grows new wood each year. Like that apple tree, I try to grow a little new wood each year as well.” (Found in Brian Cavanaugh’s “The Sower’s Seeds.”)
So, ready to try something new? This fall, I’ll “leaf” it up to you.