**I wrote this for my church newsletter and thought I’d share it here, too. Cheers!**
I have this love/hate relationship with writing.
On the one hand, it’s something I enjoy. It helps me tame the thoughts swirling in my head. I tend to express myself better in writing, as conversation has never been my strong suit.
On the other hand, when I write a little article and it ends all neat and tidy, it gives a false impression that I’ve got my life all figured out and put together. It gives the impression that life can be wrapped up in 500 words with an introduction, a few bullet points and a conclusion.
So, here I sit, working on [my church] newsletter with an empty space to fill and some words on my heart about what I’ve written in the past.
I’ve written about my struggles to focus on a relationship with God and not on a religious set of rules. I’ve written about my struggles to read my Bible with consistency. And guess what? I still struggle with those same things.
So, what is my problem? I mean, really? I have Christ living in me, so why do I keep resorting to old habits? If I am a new creation, why do I keep feeling like the same old, same old?
One reason is because I have an enemy and his name is Satan. I’m pretty sure he’d like me to be a religious rule-follower who never reads my Bible. He tells lies, and I sometimes choose to listen to them.
Other reasons include that I rely on my own strength and forget to ask God for His strength. I live as though I must meet some level of spiritual maturity before God can really work in my life. I forget about grace.
Another reason for my failures has been revealed in an unlikely way as I train to run a 5K. I know what you are thinking, “I didn’t know Cori was a runner.” Well, actually, I have always hated running, but I’m currently in week five of a nine-week program called “Couch to 5K.” (Clever name, huh?)
For about 30 minutes, three days a week, I do a walking/jogging combination around my neighborhood. Supposedly I’ll be able to run for 30 minutes at the end of the nine weeks.
And, you know what? The program is actually working! It’s not easy (it does involve running), but it hasn’t been nearly as hard as I thought it might be. The keys seem to be how slow the program starts out and the small, gradual increases in running. The program designers knew what they were doing. At coolrunning.com, the website explaining the program, it recommends not skipping ahead but repeating weeks as necessary until you are ready to move on. It says, “Too many people have been turned off of running simply by trying to start off too fast.”
I have to wonder how many times I have sabotaged my own spiritual growth by trying to start off too fast? What if I used the same principles that are helping me do something I have never enjoyed, to do something I really desire?
I desire to spend time with God reading my Bible on a daily basis. What if I start by just reading on, say, three days a week. I hear myself protesting already, because I think I should just be able to do all seven. But what if I start out slowly, wait until I am ready to move on, and gradually add a day of Bible reading to my life?
I don’t expect my kids to learn to walk in a day. Or learn to ride a bike. Or learn to read. The list could go on. We gradually help our kids learn to do new things. Why do I think my Heavenly Father, who has love and grace beyond my comprehension, expects me to do everything perfectly the first time? In our hurried culture of text messages, fast food, extreme make-overs and instant everything, it’s easy to forget that I am a work in progress.
So, what about you? Is there something you’ve been trying to accomplish in your own strength? Have you tried to make changes too quickly without giving yourself the time to let a new habit stick? Do you need a grace-based training program for prayer, Bible reading or putting on the fruit of the Spirit?
“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7-8
The verse doesn’t say, “What is your problem? Just be godly, already!” It says to “train yourself to be godly.” It implies time, practice and probably some failures.
God gives us grace and mercy — not permission to sin, but an invitation for forgiveness and a fresh start. Thank you, God, for your great love! Remind us of it as we seek You and train ourselves in godliness.