Little by Little
“Poco a poco.” A phrase I was introduced, or rather reintroduced, to while interning at an English immersion program in a small, relaxed, beach town of the Dominican Republic: “little by little.” Though I have heard the phrase in English many times, for some reason it spoke to me on another level in Spanish, so much so, that I considered having it tattooed on my hand as a constant reminder as I work. Perhaps, because at the time I found myself captivated by a culture that honestly believed in its value. I had previously used the sentiment as encouragement to simply catch my breath in the busyness of life until I witnessed it being used as a real celebration of the process. Forever blessed by my experience with a culture that lives in the moment and realizes the joy in taking time for growth; God recently reminded me of the beloved phrase as I struggled with a particular process. He used this to help me begin embracing the process rather than idolizing the outcome. As a results-oriented person, I felt Jesus had just broken another chain. No matter how insignificant a small step may seem to us, God “rejoices” when he sees us moving toward His will and stepping into the plan He has for us.
In Zechariah chapter 4, Zarubbabel (governor of Judah) is encouraged by a prophesy about the rebuilding of the temple. For about 12 years this process had been delayed but God spoke through the prophet Zechariah: “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand” Zechariah 4:10 (NLT). God rejoiced because He could see the whole picture even when His people could not. What seemed like an unimpressive structure to them was the beginning of a grander plan. God knew His plan for Israel to rebuild the temple would later lead to the New Testament body of Christ, spread all over the Earth and filled by His Holy Spirit.
So then we may also be encouraged by Matthew 25:2, “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (NIV) If God can trust us with the little things (small beginnings) He will trust us with bigger things. And it is not up to us to have all the answers but rather to step out in faith and simply work toward whatever He has asked of us. God rejoices when we begin this work even if we start small because He already sees the bigger picture. He sees the generations that will be influenced by your act of faith and obedience. We are even encouraged by Paul in Philippians 1:6 “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
I find myself revisiting this theme now as I begin the homeschool journey and attempt to teach my children Spanish and Sign Language. I am fluent in neither language, nor I do not come from a homeschooling background. Nothing about foreign languages comes easily to me so I often feel like the student rather than the teacher. But I know God has called me to this task.
I recently became frustrated at my progress with Spanish. I just began researching Sign Language in order to teach it, so I give myself a bit of grace in that arena. But with Spanish- I have been studying it for years, my husband is a native speaker, and yet still I struggle to get the right words in the right order. But then God reminded me of how far I have come despite challenges and delays. How much more do I understand now compared to a few years ago? How many lullabies and nursery rhymes did I learn to sing with my first daughter so she could be exposed to Spanish more often? Children’s songs may not seem like a big deal right now, but God is working in the small things too. I learned those songs and poems because I don’t want my children to struggle in communicating in the language of half of their family. It has certainly been a labor of love. Then I thought about how much fun I had learning them with the help of my mother- in- love. I remembered how proud my husband was of me and how much he appreciated my effort. Even my mom joined in on the fun and she knows more Spanish words now than she ever intended to. That one baby step in this lifelong process brought our entire family closer together. It is my hope that our family will be multilingual for generations to come. I have no way of knowing how many people this small act of faith will reach- but God does! Look back to verse 6 in Zechariah chapter 4: Then he said to me, “This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (NLT). Not by my power but by the power of God, His will for my children and their language capabilities will be done. I do not have to be fluent (though I hope to be one day), I just need to be obedient.
The process of learning can be difficult for adults and children, but God can use this process not only for educational purposes but to strengthen and refine us, to bring us closer to each other and closer to Him. So, whether you are learning, teaching, or both, remember to embrace and enjoy the process. God will handle the results and he delights in your surrendered, humble beginnings.