Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

The process of progress

The church street sign that reads “Try God, because Google doesn’t have all the answers” is cute, but it also points to a serious issue—how technology is shaping what we believe on different levels.

First, there’s the presumption that there’s an answer to everything, somewhere. All things can be explained, with the right search engine. It’s just a matter of algorithms. The concept of mystery, that some things just can’t be understood like a mathematical equation, gets squeezed out. And then there’s the expectation of the instant. We hit that button and get an immediate response.

But sometimes life isn’t like that. Change, growth, development is a process, not an event. So, too, can be healing, forgiveness, freedom.

Now, that process may include any number of small events, of course. But each one is a mile marker, not the finishing tape. In 1 Corinthians 3:18 Paul reminds us that we are being changed from one degree or glory to another. Incremental progress. Closer.

I’m not discounting miracles. God can intervene in a moment, making crippled legs firm, or freeing from addiction, just like that. But even after that shazzam we may still stumble occasionally as we learn to walk confidently or clean. That’s not failure, it’s progress.

Sometimes we want an instant answer because it spares us the hard work. I’m reminded of the story of the nun who prayed for years for God to take away from her a besetting sin. Finally, one day (maybe when she paused long enough for Him to get a word in edgeways), God told her:

“No, I’m not going to take it away from you. I want you to give it to me.”

Rather than a once-in-a-lifetime exchange, He wanted daily dependency.

The good news is that while we are in the imperfect process Jesus is not sitting there, drumming His fingers on the table, thinking, “Come on and get this thing done, for My sake.” Because He knows what it’s like to struggle, to be in process.

This concept of Jesus understanding our weaknesses and struggles was more of a theological or intellectual thing for me until a recent re-reading of the Gospels account of Jesus’ prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane. Then I saw something.

Jesus tells the Father that He’d prefer not to have go through what’s looming. “Yet not my will, but yours be done,” He says.

That sounds pretty final. Check. Decision made. Face set. Let’s go.

And yet He goes back and prays the same thing twice more. He’s already told the Father He bows to His will, but now He’s wondering again if there is any way He might be spared.

When, a few moments later, Jesus tells the snoozing Peter that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” He’s speaking from experience, not theoretical knowledge.

Jesus knows that surrendering to God’s plan and purposes—progress—can be a process. And He is with us in it.




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