“Slowly but surely…”
This has been the mantra for my wife and I during the past several weeks as we get “slowly but surely” settled into our new home. Bins unpacked. Moving boxes recycled. Wall hangings hung. Blind fixtures installed. Furniture (at least what we have) arranged. Basement shelves built. But make no mistake, we are still very much a work in progress.
Little by little.
Bit by bit.
Slowly but surely.
Though place the order way back in December, we still wait for couches and a dining set to arrive. There are many items that haven’t found a permanent home. The basement is unmercifully flooded with boxes and random objects. And there is definitely no room yet in the garage for my car. (Please know I'm not complaining; this is just a commentary on our reality. I am keenly aware of the "first world" problems to start this post.) As much as I wish it could all be done and put away with just the snap of two fingers, it doesn’t work that way. Of course, we will get there eventually. After all, we haven’t even lived in the home for a full month yet! Slowly but surely we will achieve our desired results, gradually and methodically rather than quickly and spectacularly.
Pondering several recent conversations with fellow Christians, it dawns on me that we are all works in progress. No one is perfect. None of us have it all together. Missteps and mistakes abound, no matter our season of life. Each of us encounter spiritual hiccups in the form of people or situations. Snares set by the devil to entrap us in fear or frustration. Obstacles placed to ensure we repeatedly fail to consistently embody the Sunday faith we confess. Our evolution or maturity as Christians is not instantaneous or permanent; it peaks and craters from time to time. But if we stay the course and cling to the cross of Jesus, it will continue to grow and improve over time. Oh sure it would be awesome if we could all be the poster children for faithful followers of Jesus—always saying the right thing or willing to serve at any moment. But that’s just not the case. Sure we have good flashes; but they come in between moments where our sinful flesh gets the best of us. The Apostle Paul loved to talk about a life of perseverance (especially in Romans 5). But I think my favorite related verses is what we read in James 1:12: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” It is over the span of time, as works in progress and engulfed with trials, that God helps us grow in character and in hope... slowly but surely. After all, the sign of a mature Christian is not one who sprints around showing off piety like a fancy new outfit. It is not the one who seems so organized, settled in and all together. Not one who parades their good deeds and worship attendance around for all to see. Instead, the faithful and honest follower is the man or woman who knows their struggle with sin and as such relies solely on the compassion and love of Jesus. We hit our knees. We repent. We receive the grace of God. We go out to be the imperfect, but always trying salt and light kingdom representatives that Jesus expects us to be. It is the one who tries to do things right by God. It is the one who perseveres through all sorts of crud and, slowly but surely, displays genuine humility in moments of failure and graciousness in moments of success.
Confucius, the ancient Chinese philosopher who lived centuries before Christ, once said: “It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you don’t stop.” Great words of wisdom. Therefore, we won't stop. Slowly but surely my family will keep unpacking and getting settled into our new abode. And in terms of our relationship with God? We dare not stop there either. The apostle Paul had something similar to say too: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) God isn’t finished with us yet. We may be works in progress, but as long as we keep moving with God by our side, He will finish the task of our eternal salvation. He will give us that crown of life. Until that time, we walk with God through whatever this world throws our way. It may sting from time-to-time, but we trust that little by little, bit by bit God is always working for our good (Romans 8:28). In the ups and downs of life and the highs and lows of our days, we hang our hope on the One who hung on the cross. We praise and thank Him for his grace and patience with us, living works-in-progress.