The Different Faces of Diligence

Here's one of my favorite sayings:

"Seest thou a man diligent in his business?  He shall stand before kings" (Prov. 22:29).

Short and sweet.  (Or as the fellow once said, "Hebrew literature: adage without padage.")  In any case, diligence is a good idea, and one of its rewards is influence in high places.

But for our kids, it isn't so romantic.  For them, there are two kinds of diligence, and one of them never seems to work.

Before we get into that, though, let's remember what it's like for our kids in school.  They are going somewhere (academically) they have never been before, and they don't know what the end of their road looks like.  (Neither do you.)  They're being made to sit still, focus with their ears, and think strange new thoughts, none of which they signed up for. The homework-jobs are hard, they often just don't see the point, and in short, on any given day they'd probably rather be headed down a different highway.  Maybe the one to recess, or the ski slopes.

Enter diligence.  Diligence is like the car that helps your kids reach that unknown and elusive destination. It muscles through distraction, dislike, and stress. Diligence is grinding gears, revved engines, and plenty of exhaust(ion). It has torque and gets you places.

But diligence also dresses up as something else, not a car at all.  Often, diligence is an old slow geezer with a cane who talks more than he walks. So much for getting you places.

Diligence is both the car and the geezer -- and your kids can't pick and choose which they get.  They place an order for it, and it's anyone's guess which kind will show up.  Sometimes, their diligence produces quick results, measurable and satisfying.  They buckle down, block out all distractions, forego the party with friends, and hammer their math facts.  With great fanfare they get an A+ on their test -- a real break-through.  But other times, they buckle down, block out all distractions, forego the party with friends, and hammer their math facts -- and get a C-.  Again.

These are the two kinds of diligence.  One gets immediate, measurable results.  The other just won't.  But (here's the key) they are both essential and unavoidable parts of the learning process.  Sometimes diligence struts its stuff and lights up report cards.  Very good.  But much more often, it bides its time and offers little hope.  This kind of diligence takes faith, but it teaches powerful lessons.  It is a slow burn with deep roots.

Growth and education are funny things.  They are unpredictable and defy all parental expectation.  But over time, in the video (not the snapshot) of our children's lives, full of countless insignificant acts of diligence and faith and no day-to-day assurance of a shining future, God raises up young men and women for his glory.