Marching in place a little?
Father, may they clearly know Your will and achieve the height and depth of spiritual wisdom and understanding. May their lives be a credit to You, Lord; and what’s more, may they continue to delight You by doing every good work and growing in the true knowledge that comes from being close to You. Strengthen them with Your infinite power, according to Your glorious might, so that they will have everything they need to hold on and endure hardship patiently and joyfully. (Colossians 1:9-11 VOICE)
Although the passage we are looking at today was written as a prayer for the church at Colossae, it has some meaning for us as fellow believers in the grace and forgiveness of God. Most of us will quickly admit one of the most frequent struggles we face is this assurance we are acting in the will of God - knowing what to do, when to do it, and how it should be accomplished. As we get more experienced with doing things in life, we often discover there is more than one way to actually do something - what you may accomplish one way, I may accomplish with similar end results, but in an entirely different manner. What works for me may not work for you - because our abilities or circumstances are different. For me to say there is one way to pray would be quite untrue - just as it would be to say there is but one way to get to a destination located in the center of town. Paul's prayer for the believers (and that includes us) is that they may clearly know the Father's will - allowing them to grow like weeds in the depth and breadth of God's grace and love! All the rest will follow when we are assured our steps are "ordered" - right, steady, and well-placed.
As much as it matters that we take the "right" steps in life, we also want those steps to "count". We want them to matter - to be of value to both us and those around us, including those who will come after us. We don't want to just "bide time" - to merely "exist" leaves us with no real sense of purpose or accomplishment. If we are just "marching in place" for a while, we might understand it as necessary even when we don't understand the purpose of the lack of progress. If we are left marching in place for a long, long time, the lack of enthusiasm to continue on our journey is soon lost! Why? We aren't getting anywhere! We are people who want to see things accomplished, aren't we? If not in the outward sense, we need to feel it inwardly. I am on a journey to get my body back into shape and this includes losing a little weight. To do so, I have had to "march in place" a little some weeks as my body adjusts to the decreased intake of some foods, increased intake of others, and the increasing measure of exercise I must add in order to see the pounds shed. Outwardly I may not see much change from week to week, but inwardly I am feeling it!
The same is often true about our spiritual journey - we may not see much evidence of what God has set about to accomplish in our lives on the outside, but inwardly we know he is at work and the impact of that work is beginning to affect us (even when it isn't always seen on the outside or by others). The greatest change God makes in our lives is the inward change which brings us closer and closer to him. It is this transition which many of us have a hard time putting into words - we just know something is about to be different - either in the way we see things, how we react to them, or what we take away from them as we walk through them. At times, we get discouraged because we don't see the evidence of what this "marching in place" is doing - but the seeming lack of forward progress doesn't mean we aren't still in beat with his heart. God's heartbeat is much like the cadence being called out by the one who keeps the battalion moving forward in perfect marching rhythm. That heartbeat may be a little faint when we are distracted by our own intent or purpose - but it gets ever clearer and easier to hear when we settle down, march in place a little, and let that rhythm establish our future movements!
Endurance may just be learned in the times we don't actually see much movement or change. It may be hard for us to imagine marching in place increases our endurance - helps us make it even further in the journey. In fact, we likely don't even have a clue why we are where we are at times because we don't know what got us there. We just need to settle into his arms and allow him the chance to reveal his purpose to us. This is the hardest place for us because we are people of "action" - we want it done, in short order, and we want to move onto the next thing. When we are called upon to march for any length of time without making much progress, our chances of being distracted by the lack of "progress" are greater. We don't see change happening - so we look around us to see if we can find it somewhere else - as though we "missed it" somewhere along the way. A soldier marching in place will tell you "looking around" is not permitted because it is easy to get out of sync with the cadence when we do. The straight-ahead focus marching in place demands actually keeps us in sync - it helps us to remain consistent in our "cadence". A disturbed or disrupted cadence will mean a break in consistency - a chance for what was being accomplished in us to become disrupted or taken off-course.
I don't know what we each are doing today - some may be marching full-speed ahead, while others of us are kind of "marching in place" a little. Either way, let us do with consistency, focused ever so intently on the cadence of God's heartbeat, so that in the end we will accomplish all he has purposed for our journey. Just sayin!