Recently I was berating myself for not getting a certain writing task done. But on further reflection, I realized I’d done a lot of work on the project—only the work had been done in my head. I hadn’t, as yet, put the ideas down on paper.

That got me thinking about the ways we push ourselves to do the tangible, measurable, obvious work of life, but give little regard to the less visible forms of the inner life. Thus, things like listening, contemplating, and meditating are given less honor. The inner disciplines aren’t as obvious to the casual observer. We’re used to evaluating action.

This weekend I’ll be attending a writing conference where Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Disciplines, will be the keynote speaker. His book on the inner and outer forms of spiritual disciplines was life-changing for me as a young Christian. I need to read it again, because I’m still not very disciplined at meditation, fasting, prayer or the outer disciplines of service, solitude and submission.

Of course the fruit of these disciplines is a life more completely devoted to loving God and my fellow man. That can be measured and judged.

When it comes to children and their learning curves, we need to understand they need the benefit of some think time too. They don’t learn a new skill or behaviors in one go. They may need time as they’re learning any new skill to experiment, try and fail, or approximate an acceptable response.

In fact, we all need the kindness of being given think time. We need the grace to process what we’re learning and the freedom to try and fail. And we need to value those inner processes found in times of listening, prayer and meditation. The inner feeds the outer. Good things will come when we learn to value think time.