A couple of weeks ago, Liz had a new violin student show up. I realised the other day I hadn’t seen her since. I asked Liz where she was, and she told me the person realised that she didn’t want to practice and wouldn’t be coming back. If she had stuck with it, in about 9 months, she would have spent a few hundred euros on lessons and hours on practising, but she would have grown as a violinist. She likely would not be opening at the National Concert Hall, but she would have significantly improved over what she will actually be 9 months from now. But she made a decision that she would rather put her time and money into things that are more fun. Fair enough.
I ended my last post by asking what are you good at. And whatever it was that popped into your head, it was likely something you have worked at over time. And most likely the reason you put in the effort, was because you loved it.
Practice Practice Practice
I played basketball for 4 years in high school. (and no, that is not the thing I’m good at) I wasn’t great, but I made the team. As we prepared for our season, we would have weeks of practice before our first game. During the first several days of practice, we would not even touch a basketball. We ran. We did drills. And when we eventually did get to touch a basketball, we did more drills. We did passing drills. We did defensive drills. And finally, we would do shooting drills.
Often we would practice free throws. And if we didn’t make a certain percentage of our shots, we ran. And if everyone didn’t finish the run in a specific time, we ran until we did.
Now, that sounds horrible. But if you loved basketball, and if you wanted to play well, those drills were worth it. They were helping build endurance. They were building muscle memory. They were making it so that we didn’t have to think in various situations because we automatically knew what to do.
So much of life, from tying our shoes to riding a bike or driving a car, were challenging to learn, but now done with little if any thought.
Now, if we are talking about sports or music, art or writing, we understand that we have to work at it to improve. Clearly, some have more natural abilities than others, but even that only takes you so far. Every professional athlete who won MVP of their league last year began this year doing the same drills they have been doing since they were kids.
Deliverance or Discipleship
But when it comes to our spiritual life, we often believe that if God wants us to grow, then he’ll do the work. If God wants me to change this thing or that, he will give me the strength, or the motivation, or whatever it is I might need.
When I was a kid, I had an uncle who smoked until one day he couldn’t stand the taste of them. He credited that to God helping him quit. Other people heard that story and responded, “I wish God would take the desire away from me like that.” He didn’t.
The word we’d use to describe what happened with my uncle would likely be deliverance. Something miraculous happened. One day a desire for something unhealthy was there, and next, it was gone. (It was the same type of miracle I prayed before a few tests I had not studied for…that also never happened).
But, for the one who still had the desire and still had a habit they felt powerless to address, they needed discipline. And not in a punishment kind of way, but they were going to have to work at it. They were going to have to learn new habits, unlearn old ones, and it would likely be painful and challenging, but there would come a point when they got to the other side.
Now it might sound like deliverance would always be the preferred model. We tell God what we want. He snaps his fingers, and whatever issue we have is done and dusted. We won’t even get into what a twisted view of God that is here but think about people you’ve known to had everything in life handed to them. Then think about people you know who have worked hard to get where they are. There is a character and a wisdom that comes from the latter that we simply don’t get when things are handed to us. We tend to appreciate and have gratitude in more significant measure when we recognise the cost involved.
What Would You Like to See Change?
Quick question. Does God want you to become a certain type of person, or does he want you to say a prayer, go to church, and not sin too much? If it is become a certain type of person, then how will you get there? (Assuming the whole snapping fingers thing isn’t going to work.)
Imagine you have a meeting with a trainer tomorrow, and they are going to ask you what you believe you need to work on? But instead of a trainer at the gym, you are meeting with someone who is spiritually mature and can help you discover a path from where you are to where you think God would like you to be.
If you had that meeting scheduled, what would be your response? And remember, you aren’t going to work on everyone at once. This will take time…And you’ve got the rest of your life in front of you.
But I’ll guess if you were asked where is an area you think God wants to see you grow, that you probably have an idea already.
So, now what? Why not go meet with the trainer? Maybe it is a leader at your church. Perhaps it is a mature Christian you know has some expertise in this area. And if you don’t know anybody…then you might need to hire one. A coach, a spiritual director, a counsellor. Whatever. If you think this is something that the Spirit seems to be pointing you toward, “nah, it’s too hard is probably not the best response.”
In the next post, we’ll dig in a bit on spiritual disciplines and practices and how they can help to form us.
One final thought. It may have sounded before like I was saying either it is all God…or it’s all effort on our part. But that isn’t it. I firmly believe that as we take steps towards Jesus…he always meets us. That in the midst of something difficult, we have access to a level of peace and grace that we never would have received had we stayed where we were. Taste. And. See.
So, what is your next step?
(If you know you want to figure this out but simply have no idea where to start, drop me a note using the contact link above, and I’ll get back to you in the next few days.)