Slow Growth is an Illusion.
The formerly rural city I live in, for the past five years or so, has become quite progressive. The population is increasing, business is booming, the arts are beginning to flourish, and people are actually moving here from bigger cities and do not feel completely Podunk. As a result there are several new buildings and architecture popping up out of nowhere. But they really aren’t out of nowhere. In reality, I drive passed a construction site on my way to work for months and am constantly wondering what in the world is taking so long. It seems like half a year goes by and the four walls are not even standing yet. Then all of the sudden it happens. The same structure that had no structure for four or five months is fully functioning within a couple of weeks.
The foundation takes a while.
The first time I noticed this I just assumed there was some logical reason that the progress stopped. Maybe a disagreement arose about the contract, or perhaps the owners ran into some sort of legal issues concerning the property. But as I saw this happen time and time again I finally realized what was going on. The foundation was being built. As a carpenter, Jesus talked about this in his Sermon on the Mount. Toward the end of his message he said that if anyone applies his teaching to their lives they are like a man who built his house on the rock. If anyone does not apply it, he is like a man who built his house on sand. He said that when the storm comes the house on the rock will be fine, but the one on the sand is screwed. The foundation is the most important part of the structure and usually takes the longest.
Growth is not consistent, thank God.
This is how life goes for me. Sometimes I look back over the years and see that I am still struggling with the same things I was struggling with ten years ago. It’s quite discouraging because I think, “If it has taken me this long to have only come this far, will I ever arrive?” But experience has taught me that growth is not consistent.
Not a morning person.
When I was young my parents would do everything they could think of to get me up in time for school. My dad would sometimes wake me up all excited by playing with my action figures. We would play for a few minutes until he said, “Alright, now get ready for school.” Other days he thought it was funny to wake me by pouring water on my head. Not as enjoyable as playing with my toys, but it got the job done I suppose. I’m sure they wondered if I would ever be a self-functioning, normal adult. There was no change until I was twenty-four. Then I started college. For some reason I would try to stay up late and do my homework, and it was just not happening. 10pm would come around and I could not stay awake. The assignment was due the next day. The only thing I could do was wake up at 4:30 in the morning and do homework until it was time to go to my job at 8am. Turns out that 4:30am is like a fresh cup of coffee. I was wired and ready to go. I now consider myself a morning person and wake up at 5am regularly.
Not a money person.
One more. I was absolutely awful with money. When I was at an internship for a year after high school, my parents paid for the program which provided me with food, lodging and learning. That means the only expenses I needed extra money for were gas and entertainment. I spent $1,100 in one month… on entertainment! Like going out to eat, getting coffee, going to the movies, etc. My parents told me they were going to have to cut me off. Apparently their bank account was not just a bottomless pit with my name on it. I am a completely different person now. But that didn’t happen “over a period of time.” It happened practically overnight. I left the internship, got a job, and then found out that money really doesn’t grow on trees. Now budgeting is a favorite past time and people are blown away, and even annoyed, at how organized and anal I am with my finances.
I say these things, not to tell you that someday you will be a morning person or a financial guru. And of course this is not the whole story either. I can list plenty of things in my life that aren’t even close to an overnight fix. I’m still terrible with directions, meeting new people is a very difficult and slow learning process, and I cannot stay consistent in eating healthy for the life of me. But I do want to encourage you not to give up. There are some things you hate about yourself and are trying your best to change, and it just isn’t happening. You have noticed little, if any, improvement over the past several years and it is getting discouraging. But the Bible tells us, “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9). Don’t look at your progress assuming growth is consistent, because sometimes it isn’t. Sometime you work for years and years to improve an area of your life and one day something clicks and you just do it as if you always have. Other things are like climbing a mountain: you will see your progress, not by seeing how far you’ve yet to go, but by seeing how far you’ve come. But do not give up. Keep repenting, keep reading, keep learning, keep trying, and someday you may be amazed by your sudden growth. You may have been building the foundation all this time and since the foundation takes the longest and looks like the least amount of progress, you might feel like you’ve accomplished nothing. Don’t stop. You will reap if you don’t give up.