This is a guest post from the best mom ever, my wife, Sara. I’m so thankful for her!
I don’t know when I began our ritual, but it was sometime before Lylah’s first birthday. While she sat in her high chair, I would poke myself in the chest while saying “Mama.” Then I would poke her in the chest while saying “Lylah.” When Austin was around, I would repeat the ritual, adding in “Dada” as I poked him.
I would do this almost daily, usually when she was in her high chair. I bet some days I did it at all 3 meals. Usually, Lylah would just smile at me, or giggle after I poked her. By the time she was 1, she was able to recognize me as “Mama” and Austin as “Dada.” These were her first words and I don’t know about Austin, but I cried with joy the first time she looked at me… really looked at me… and said “Mama.”
I bet I have done this “Mama… Lylah” ritual for at least 6 months now. Probably over 250 times.
Last week, without prompting, Lylah pointed to herself and said “Yai-yah.”
She knows herself!
Lylah has done this many times over the past week. Each time she does, I melt. I am amazed that she knows herself. I was also fascinated that for 6 months, she showed no signs of comprehension or imitation. Then one day, seemingly out of the blue, it clicked and she mimicked it back to me.
All of this made me think about what I say to the church I serve as pastor. Each Sunday during worship I mention that we are a “church for the community” at least 3 times. Our session and our other committees look at ways to live out this mission statement. Many times I feel like a broken record. I think that the congregation can’t possibly want to hear me say “we are a church for the community” one more time.
Various speakers and books have reminded me that you need to say the same things over and over for people (congregation members or otherwise) to remember it. When you are sick of hearing it, then you are halfway there.
My experience with Lylah backs this up. After months and months of my ritual, Lylah comprehended it enough to mimic it back to me. I know that the correlation isn’t 1-to-1. My daughter is only 16 months old. Yet my experience with her reminded me of the need for persistence as I lead the United Presbyterian Church.
If you lament that you feel like a broken record in your team or organization, take heart. Don’t get discouraged. They are listening to you and remembering what you say. This is especially true if you say the same thing over and over.
Recently, at two different meetings, two different people started a statement with “well, if we are a church for the community, then we should…” It was music to my ears. Our church is remembering that we are a church for the community in the same way that Lylah is realizing that she is Lylah.
Stay the course. Be persistent. Keep leading. Sound like a broken record. Your team (and your family) is listening to you.