I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that my girls, like their parents, are avid readers. Naturally, the more they read, the more they are exposed to new vocabulary.
It can be rather humorous to listen to them as they incorporate some of that vocabulary into their speech. Sometimes they don’t pronounce the words quite right as they’ve never connected what they’ve seen in print to what they’ve heard. Other times, it’s obvious they don’t have a clear grasp on the meaning of their new words. While they are pretty quick to grasp definitions from context, sometimes the context can be misunderstood.
What’s even more precious is to hear Steven trying out some of these new words. Although his reading skills are still very immature (as is appropriate for his age!), he finds other ways to expand his vocabulary. He listens closely to his sisters. He listens as I read aloud. And, as we go through his phonics rules and the sample words for each rule, he makes sure he knows the meaning of each word either by using it in a sentence himself or asking me what the word means.
What strikes me, though, about all three kids is their boldness with these new words. I can remember being about Olivia’s age and using a new word improperly. I adored the teenager who was babysitting us that day and, to be honest, I wanted to impress her. She chuckled a little bit and then very, very sweetly corrected me. She did not in any way intend to hurt my feelings, and instead applauded me for using such a big word. But I was embarrassed. I adopted a habit that has been quite hard to break – a habit of not using new words without being absolutely certain of their meaning and pronunciation. Unfortunately, that habit affected other areas of my life as well, thwarting my boldness to use other new knowledge or information.
But, my kids aren’t like that. We correct them – sometimes even chuckling, if not downright laughing, when their usage is humorous. Then we encourage them just as my babysitter did so many years ago. We express our pride that they would use such words. We explain how to use the words properly. And, when they use new vocabulary properly the first time, we make a big deal out of it. Instead of being embarrassed and refusing to try new words, they laugh with us and then continue to boldly experiment with their ever-expanding vocabulary.
My kids refuse to put aside anything they have learned. They incorporate it. They use it. They try it out. Whether it’s a new word, a bit of historical knowledge, or a scientific nugget, it becomes part of their play, their interaction with other people, and their bank upon which they draw for future reference.
Growing spiritually should affect us the same way. It is something that takes practice. Many times, we won’t get it right the first time any more than my children will say an unfamiliar word correctly the first time. We will make mistakes. But, if we refuse to try because we are afraid of those mistakes, then we’ll also never learn or grow. Our practice will never turn into skill, and we’ll remain spiritually stagnant.
May we never be stagnant! May we instead be bold learners in spiritual matters, willing to try out our learning every single day.