Spiritual Growth

Imperfect Progress

I am reading through a Bible Study called “Unglued” by Lysa TerKeurst and I was struck by a revelation about what she calls “imperfect progress.”  You know when you think to yourself, “I am going to do better next time.”  “Next time I’ll just eat what I planned.”  “I won’t yell at my kids ever again.”  We make these self-promises when we blow it.  I truly feel so lousy after letting myself or someone else down and I bathe resolve in good intention.  My promises are destined for failure before they are conceived.  I make those resolutions all year long.  Who needs New Years Day?  I resolve and I fall and I get frustrated.  I’ll try harder.  I’ll get it right if I read the Bible more, pray more, get more sleep, go to the next mom’s night out … 

Our pastor shared a few weeks ago that we just can’t overcome the flesh with the flesh.  Do we see the futility?  I do it almost without consulting myself.  I make the resolve.  I mean it fully.  I have a heart bent on seeking Jesus and I am serious about loving Him well.  And, I simultaneously can convince myself that I can conquer my own sin and failings by just resolving and trying harder.  And when I fail, I am disappointed in my inability to hold fast.  Is this the Gospel?  That we, who could not save ourselves, encountered Him who both could and would, and when we lay down our trying we find that it is finished and we are reconciled.  Where is the Gospel in all this trying and resolve?  Where is Jesus when I get myself back up and dust myself off and try even harder? 

He patiently waits for me as I spin this cycle.  And I must come to the end of myself.  What is it that happened at Babel?  They thought they could build a tower and be like God.  We try to build our own towers all the time.  I’ll be a good mom.  I’ll lose weight.  I’ll serve more.  I’ll think of myself less.  But what we miss in this equation is the very heart of God — the heart of Christianity — the heart of the Universe.  We miss that God made us for relationship and that relationship is based on connection and dependence and communication.  Communion.  It means intimacy.  It is connection in relationship — sharing.  When I go off on these self-reliant resolves, I leave behind the very heart of life.  I miss the connection, the intimacy, the communion because I believe in my errant heart that I must clean up before He would even be willing to give me the time of day.  Yet He already gave me so much more — God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  He just isn’t waiting around with His arms folded waiting for me to get it right so He can crack a smile and feel good about saving me and calling me His own. 

I grew up thinking I had to get it together to be loved and accepted.  I translated that to God and I find myself still turning to old habits and forgetting.  I forget that He did already do the needed work.  I forget that He delights in me.  I forget that I already am His beloved.  What He wants is not about behavior, but about a person — He just wants me.  As Dallas Willard said, “We must understand that God does not “love” us without liking us – through gritted teeth – as “Christian” love is sometimes thought to do. Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self-renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each human being upon it. The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures is the natural outflow of what He is to the core – which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word “love”.” (The Divine Conspiracy).  

God permits imperfect progress because He fully knows that I am human.  He doesn’t forget,as I am so prone to do, that this whole life is about love and coming together with Him for intimacy.  He made the way on the cross and He makes the way for me today.  When I turn around and look back on the road I have walked, as Lysa so graciously illustrates in Unglued, I can see the progress, bit by bit, and what’s more, I can see the knitting of my heart to His — one stitch at a time.  

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