It seems to be written into the human genome that we must continually learn the same things over and over again, in new and deeper ways each time. It seems to me that once we start down the narrow path, it only becomes more narrow and difficult as we go, as we learn more and more what it is to follow a person through a thicket instead of a crowd down a road. Charles Spurgeon once stood before his congregation and preached the Gospel one Sunday morning. An elderly fellow from the church shook his hand afterward and asked him why he kept preaching the Gospel every Sunday, instead of moving on to some other aspect of Christianity…? Spurgeon replied that he would keep on preaching the Gospel until they understood it.
I have been following Jesus for 18 years now, that’s more than half my life… I’ve grown a lot, and I’ve also made some pretty monumental mistakes… I have a degree in Ministry and spent nearly 10 years focusing on that aspect of my life, and every day I wake up to find that I am only scratching the surface of my understanding of God. Every time I learn something, a new light is cast on everything that has come before it and I find myself re-learning everything I thought I knew… including things about myself that I would rather have left swept happily under my ignorance.. but those things are like a cancer, you’re life is fine until you realize it’s there, then it consumes you and terrifies you and all you can think about is cutting it out.
God sent someone into my life who has recently turned on a light and shined it into me… God opened my eyes to things I either didn’t know about myself, or refused to admit about myself… for starters, that there are things about myself that I refuse to admit! Honestly, this is not a new revelation.. it first happened 18 years ago when I realized that I’m broken and need a savior.. it’s happened a few times since, in various ways, but recently has been one of the most violent “awakenings” I can remember. There are a dozen times a day when I have to stop and breathe because I feel God squeezing something in my chest.. for just a moment I see the way I am, and how He wants me to be different. Some of the things He’s been showing me are my own faults and character flaws, my own stupidity and sin… other ways are just things about me that need to be polished (in some cases completely chiseled free of rust).
I’m learning new dimensions to things like patience, grace, forgiveness (giving and receiving), repentance, salvation, prayer… I’m learning what it is to truly stop being me and let God work… to shut my big stupid mouth and stop defending myself, even if I think I’m right, and just listen to what I need to hear. Like the boy in Narnia who’s sin turned him into a dragon and he had to let Aslan claw and shred and tear off his scales to free him from what he had become.. I’m learning that it hurts to not only be changed, but to come to grips with what I was… selfish, arrogant, prideful.. I have grown scales to keep out the world, in some ways just to honestly protect myself, but it also ends up keeping good things out as well. I’ve been hurt by a lot of people, and I’ve hurt a lot of people.. my relationships have been strained and bruised and some seem broken.. because of my own sinful ways, and also my (un-graceful) reactions to those of others… I pray every day that God will repair what He can and give me the opportunity to repent and make right what I’ve done wrong.. including to the friend who’s most recently held this spotlight on me… should she find the grace to let me…
Philippians 1:6 says “…He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.” When we choose to follow Christ we aren’t any different when we come up out of the water.. we’re the same sinful, selfish person we were before.. but a seed is planted that will never stop growing inside of us.. God will never stop working on us, teaching us, breaking us, reshaping us… God never runs out of second chances, because He is the God of “one more try”… He will never give up on us, or get tired of us, He knows what we will become when He’s finished with us and that’s all He cares about. The road will hurt and we will want to give up, but what’s waiting at the end is worth every scale that gets ripped off.