Steadiness is about more than discipline

If your life is marked by 'fits and starts', but very few 'finished items', then you are probably not alone. In fact, more of us start things and never see them through to completion than you might imagine. We have closets with unfinished craft projects, crossword puzzles that never quite get that last clue answered, and ideas for improving processes at work that never make it off the drawing board. We are great at 'imagining' stuff, but the follow-through to get it completed is oftentimes lacking. One thing I have adjusted to as I have 'grown up' is the idea of this whole 'slow and steady' progress toward a goal. When I wanted to have a savings large enough to handle unforeseen emergencies, the process began with only a couple dollars here and then a couple more there, but it was in the consistent savings of those small amounts that I learned I could save even larger ones! Slow and steady isn't always the way we do things. Some of us jump in both feet first, as thought the water will be too cold and we'd never make it all the way in if we don't!

In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences. Ephesians 4:2 MSG

As we think about what God is saying to believers in this passage, we might be tempted to hang our heads a little because we know we have been making fits and starts in this walk with him, but 'finishing' very little. Where there is a start, there is the potential for a finish or a stall. We can get across the finish line, giddy as all get out that we did, all the while not even looking back at the path we took to get there. When we do look back, we see what could have been a much shorter and straighter path became a pretty long and jagged path of twists and turns because of how we were running it! We were running and we made it across, but what a journey it took to get us there! Some would argue that the person who makes it across the finish line has done better than the one who is simply 'plodding along'. I might be tempted to argue that one out a little because a slow and steady progress in the right direction always outweighs having 'made it', but with very little consistency or integrity!

A couple of things mark this path of consistency. Most assuredly, the path is marked by a starting and finishing line, but it is also marked by milestones along the way. I don't think I have ever hiked a trail that didn't have some markers along it - at least not one I was confident would result in me reaching my destination safely! Those markers not only help to outline the path one is to follow, but they indicate where you are in the progress you are making. As you drive upon an American highway, you will observe these green and white signs along the roadside at various intervals. They may not be at every one mile mark, but when you observe them you will note they are either counting downward from the last point or upward toward the next one. Milestones mark out our path because they help us see how far we have traveled and if there is still any distance yet for us to travel, but they also keep us aware of being on the right path!

Why does this path of consistency require humility? I think it is because there are always going to be times when we need to ask for directions! We are bound to not know the next step to take, or how to find our way back on course when we haven't been paying close attention to the course we have taken. We need to be able to acknowledge our need for help when we aren't feeling like we can go on any longer - when the path seems a bit too steep or too 'unknown' to travel. Humility isn't for the weak of heart, my friends. In fact, it takes more fortitude and 'umph' to admit you are lost, or that you are wearing down in the journey than one might first admit. Yet, in so doing, we place ourselves at the mercy of someone else - either God, another who has traveled this way before, or both! We find we can muster up the energy for the next step when we are humble enough to admit we haven't been paying the right amount of attention to our present ones! Just sayin!

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