Friday, July 20, 2012

Celebrate Progress

I joke about all the unfinished projects at our house, but the reality is, we *have* made a lot of progress on our house since we moved in almost six years ago. I constantly think about how the previous owners, as well as our realtor, would be shocked at how much has changed! Yet I don't put up "after" pictures because I think I have to wait until every last detail is perfectly in place--every nail set, every coat of paint applied, artwork on the walls, decorative baskets in place.

Recently I was reviewing my notes from the first counseling class I took a couple of years ago, and I was encouraged to be reminded of something Dr. David Powlison emphasized many times in his lectures: "Change is incremental," he said. "Validate incremental change short of perfection. It's not what it should be, but it's better than what it was." He urged us to put our guilt in context, to affirm baby steps. If you struggle with anger, then "a decrease in frequency of anger outbursts, decrease in the intensity of anger, decrease in the duration of anger, an increase in how quickly you turn to God...these all count." Are you still angry? Are you still sinning? Yes, but you are moving in the right direction, and that's worth celebrating!

In the syllabus, Powlison wisely pointed out: "The actual process is usually slow. God seems content to work on a scale of centuries with the church, and a scale of decades with individuals. ...The unfolding process is invariably messy."

Decades! It's no wonder I get impatient, when my expectations are that complete transformation will come in a matter of weeks or maybe months, a year or two at most. Haven't I learned this lesson in our remodeling adventures? With an old house, a project always, ALWAYS costs more money and takes more time than you expected. It's always more involved than you anticipated. And believe me, one room or another is perpetually a mess :)

Thankfully, God is in it for the long haul, and He's not in a hurry. He wants to see me conformed to Christ, and He knows that will take a while--there's a lot of work to be done. He is patient. He perseveres.

I can focus on how far we still have to go with the house...or I can give thanks for what has been accomplished. I can wallow in a sense of failure about my sinful heart...or I can get excited about evidence of grace, and let that inspire me to press on with fresh hope. I don't have to have arrived at the finish line of holy perfection to see that God has been at work in me. I've come a long, long way from where I started! And we don't have to have our house market-ready to show you the improvements we've made along the way. You just have to use your imagination to visualize how great it will look when the work is done--or in the case of my heart, you just have to use your eyes of faith to believe how much like Christ I will look when God's work is complete.

I say all this because my so-easily-discouraged heart needs to hear this truth...and also because I want to show you what my husband, father-in-law and brother-in-law were up to last week :) But that will have  to wait for another post, because this one has gotten long and my writing time is just about up!


Zoanna said...

This is really good, Amy. It is good to be able to see the progress in one's own life, the incremental changes that God has wrought. For me, I am not the angry I used to be. I can take criticism better. It takes a lot for me to reach the point of despair. All of those things I barely had hope for three years ago.

Stephen Gambill said...

Excellent Amy. A long obedience in the same direction, fueled by repentance and faith in Christ.