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Praise for Progress

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” (1 Corinthians 13:11, NIV)

I had a friend announce on Facebook today that it was her first day home alone with her newborn daughter. Her husband had used all his paternity leave and she was braving the world of stay-at-home motherhood. Her newsfeed was filled encouragement and words of wisdom and funny stories from others’ first days. I gave her the best piece of advice that was ever given to me, “give yourself a lot of grace.”

I remember that feeling, just starting out in a world that courtesy of Pinterest-induced anxiety makes moms feel inadequate at every turn. I remember the first full day Noah was gone after Soren was born and while the day truly was “fine,” I couldn’t admit to him how ashamed I was that the house wasn’t clean and dinner wasn’t ready and Soren didn’t yet know Spanish. I could feel the grips of Facebook comparisons and Instagram hashtags touting achievements of other two-week olds that were obviously more highly intelligent than my sup-par, mono-linguistic mom-skills had yet imparted.

And then, I talked to an expert, my mom. I told her I didn’t know how she did it, raise four kids without screaming all the time or going bonkers. She reminded me of two things: I didn’t remember what life was like when I was brand new and my brother was five and my sister was three. Things looked different then, things were hectic and sometimes dinner was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in front of the TV. Then she told me that one of the reasons I can look to her with respect for all she has done as a mom is because she’s been a mom much longer than me. She told me to give myself grace and just love the process.

How often do we as Christians experience some sort of epiphany in our lives that requires we change? How often are we confronted with a pronounced sin in our lives and when we set out to change it we feel brave until day two? We realize the struggle we are up against and the fear sets in and the courage turns to timidity and our resolve begins to wane.

Those are the moments that Satan gets to step in and call us out as weak and shameful and a perpetual failure. The enemy reminds us how often he has won out as judge, jury and executioner of our moral standards and that we will never measure up to the other Christians, the holier ones, the ones at church and on Facebook and in Bible Study who most definitely don’t have secrets like ours.

Those are also the moments in which the blood of Christ covers us with immeasurable grace. Who are we to deny such a gift?

Paul says in 1 Corinthians that when he was a child he acted as such but when he became a man he put those things aside. For years I heard that verse preached like a prescription for pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. I listened as pastor’s equated Paul’s transformation to manhood as his conversion to Christ and if I was going to live a life worthy of the grace of Jesus Christ I needed to leap from infant to elder in one fell swoop.

Friends, this culture’s obsession with instant results has deafened us to the praise of progress in our walks with Christ. Because the truth is, Paul never chastised the idea of being a child, of needing to learn and come along side others. He never mocked the idea of dependence and learning from your mistakes. He does say that growth is necessary and that eventually a change will be made permanent, but that doesn’t make it less of a process.

If you set out to lose 30 lbs and woke up the next day 30 lbs down you would either be missing a limb or lying to yourself. Progress in our faith-walk is often slow and arduous and fraught with doubt. But that is why if you look up from the road, lift the head you hung in shame, you’ll see we are all walking here too. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be the one to give grace to the person who is just learning to walk.

Ali can be reached via email here.

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