Ever feel like the harder you try, the further you get behind in your efforts? I think this phenomena happens more frequently than we might like to admit. It is part of human nature to begin stuff, kind of going gung-ho for a while, then fizzle out when the task becomes too hard, a little boring, or kind of "usual". We have a tendency to "burn-out" and "wear down". What becomes more frustrating to us is when we seem to be taking the same steps over-and-over again without getting any further each time we "try again". I have walked in a few circles in my day, so trust me on this one, the only thing walking in circles ever gets us is a rut where we find our feet dragging from the sheer boredom of crossing the same path repeatedly!
So come on, let’s leave the preschool fingerpainting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ. The basic foundational truths are in place: turning your back on “salvation by self-help” and turning in trust toward God; baptismal instructions; laying on of hands; resurrection of the dead; eternal judgment. God helping us, we’ll stay true to all that. But there’s so much more. Let’s get on with it! (Hebrews 6:1-3 MSG)
We have times when we need to have the "basics" revisited and reinforced, but this should not be the constant focus. If you have ever assisted someone with a learning disability, mental handicap, or just advancing dementia, you know how frequently you have to "revisit" the basics. For example, sometimes the steps to dressing have to be given as reminders with each time the person dresses, or else they'd have their socks on over their shoes instead of inside them. Why? They don't remember the fundamentals each time because they lack the capacity to retain them. Now, most of us are not this way - so why is it we spend so much time having to revisit the basics? Maybe it is a little bit of insecurity on our parts because we don't believe we have them "down pat", or perhaps it is because we didn't pay close attention the first time. Rarely is it because we lack the capacity - for even when we do, God gives us HIS capacity!
Revisiting the basics is sometimes just a little "reality check" where we get things straight again, forming right priorities, and then setting off again without a whole lot of encumbrances of stuff which really doesn't matter much. Living in a lifestyle of doing nothing more than the basics makes for a pretty "rote" and "religious" life! We do need the basics, but we shouldn't count on them as the end all. We need to stay true to them, but then move into all God has in store for us on the "other side" of the basics. Master the talent of tying your shoes and you can move on to running without the fear of losing your shoes or tripping over your own two feet!
For a farmer to have a crop at the end of the season, he has to do more than till the soil. He could ride his tractor over that soil again and again, turning it over ever so carefully until it was finely broken pieces. Eventually all he'd have to show for his efforts would be a field of dust! One good wind storm and much of his hard work would be carried away on the wind! Just doing the basics might just get us a nicely plowed field, but when the storms of life come, there isn't much to show for all OUR efforts. Religion is just like this, we repeat time and time again the same things - not because we need to, but because it is what we are comfortable doing.
The problem with living life by "re-runs" is the issue of not growing beyond the basics. Put plainly - we need to embrace something outside of our comfort zone and watch as we see God grow us up in the process. I didn't think I could ever be in nursing administration, but when I took the step of faith, I watched as God helped my career blossom and my talents come to the surface. I didn't believe I would make a good quality improvement nurse, but when I allowed one door to close on my past and accepted the open door before me, I was blessed by what God was doing within me. These are steps in a "natural" sense, but you get the idea. Sometimes the point between the "re-runs" and the new "series" is the hardest to get beyond, but when we begin to take the steps to move on or move into something fresh happens.
Yes, we all need the fundamentals. We need to know what it is we stand upon - what gives us a foundation. We need to understand the basics and learn to consistently perform those basics. As the farmer learns to till the soil, he also learns when it is able to accept the seed and he moves on to planting. After planting, he knows the cycle required to irrigate the fields and to spread a little fertilizer to ensure the best growth. These are basics - learned well, reinforced consistently, and acted upon in the right season. His consistency is not all which is necessary for the crop to be harvested, is it? There are other things which play into the "yield" he realizes from the field. These are things he may not have control over - but they exert a certain pressure which assists in bringing harvest.
By nature, we want to control life - but any harvest worth having is mostly a matter of things beyond our control. The farmer relies upon the rains in season, sunshine sufficient to bring the growth, and even laborers to assist with the harvest at the time of ingathering. All these are outside of his control, but he takes the steps he knows to take and ACTS UPON the things he knows are proven in his life. Then he trusts. Some of us need to take the step of acting upon what we know and what has been proven in our lives - then we need to step into places of faith and trust with the stuff we don't control. In turn, we will frequently see God teach us new stuff - bringing great harvests forth (growth). Just sayin!