Out of, but not into

Last night I went to listen to Sara Hagerty, author of Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet, speak to a group of women. She was talking about renewing our minds and learning to surrender our thoughts to God.

In a sense we live in two worlds: the one around us and the one inside us. It’s the one inside us that God most wants to change and restore.

As she spoke she said something that stopped me: in God’s timing and process, it can take just as long for us to heal as it did for us to break.

Those words were like water to my soul. Not because I hope it takes forever for some of my painful places to be healed and changed, but because it already is taking forever. At least, it feels like it.

Her words felt like freedom.

If you’ve ever been around what I call idealist Christians, you’ll understand that sometimes it seems like you’re expected to just be better. All you have to do is pray one prayer and keep saying your fine, and you are. If perfection is the ideal, then just hurry up and get there.

There isn’t much understanding, or allowance for, process, and the value of it.

Over the years I have felt crushed by the weight of expectations, coming not from myself or from God, but from people – from some of my Christian family. It’s this push to be the ideal – just hurry up and get there. 

This way of thinking seems prevalent in more name-it-and-claim-it kinds of circles, where God is expected to do things quickly, instantly, in response to our commands prayers.

And sometimes, He does. But usually, it seems, deep internal change happens slowly, over time, and it builds intimacy with God. There’s value in the slowness of it all.

I also sense it in other places, too, where people want to keep up appearances – just get your crap together, okay?! This mindset isn’t limited to any one group of people. We probably all do it to each other, now and then, when we grow impatient.

But I am on God’s timetable, here, taking each step as it comes. I can’t rush it. We often think of sanctification as this lifelong process which happens to us, that changes our external behaviors, so we look like Jesus on the outside.

But, the external bleeds out from the internal. And our internals have a history and a life of their own. So the sanctification of the inner man is the lifelong process.

Thankfully, I do have some friends around me that understand the slow and steady nature of faith, growth, healing and change.

I am reminded that Israel was delivered out of Egypt in a moment, but they were not completely delivered.

They were brought out of, but not into.

That part took 40 years. They came out of Egypt to an in-between place, of their own making, mind you – because the effects of Egypt weren’t out of them, yet. It took 40 years of wandering the wilderness, and God’s faithfulness, to bring the nation fully into the promise He made to them.

That’s the story of Israel and it is typically the story of us. If you find yourself in an out-of-but-not-into place, be patient with yourself. Be patient with the people around you.

God is faithful and He doesn’t give up on us. If you’ve been hurt in a deep way, or you’ve hurt someone else, it might take a long time to really be healed. But, it’s an opportunity to know God in a deeper way. That’s what will change you. That’s the goal.

All the externals will begin to catch up along the way, little by little. Or maybe in a moment – only God knows the way He will work with each of us.

Just keep going.

 

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