I grew up with a Father who is equal parts retired football coach, eternal optimist, and dad. As his firstborn and only daughter, there were no bounds on my perceived potential, and he instilled in me the belief that I could accomplish whatever I set my mind to. This mantra made the slightly-abnormal athletic quirks, like the personalized weightlifting workout I had to complete before using the computer or receiving sports equipment every year for Christmas, make sense. My brothers and I began attending athletic clinics as early as I can remember and it was somewhere between “not uncommon” to “semi-frequent” that I would be the only girl in attendance. In later years I would have loved the odds, but this formidable youth found such scenarios to be hellish ordeals. The most memorable of these camps was a basketball clinic that met two nights a week for a semester—which, to a ten-year old, is basically a century. As the only girl, the instructor’s son became my designated partner, and while the “go easy on her” mandate was necessary, it was both indiscreet and unwelcome.
I would love to say that my story ends like a movie– with me lacing up my PF Flyers, practicing tirelessly in the rain, and culminating with my realizing that Michael’s Secret Stuff was only a placebo, and that I had it in me to overcome my MonStars all along. I would love it if my story sounded like that. But it doesn’t; it’s not even remotely similar. After failing the ball-handling drills at least 500 times, I ran into the girls locker room and bawled my way through the ensuing existential crisis– not until the storm had passed, but until the session finished and the audience of my-age boys filed out of the gym.
My sweet, idealist of a dad-coach was prepared for the car ride home, and took the paternal opportunity to teach me that everyone starts somewhere and that even Michael Jordan was lousy at first. Moral of the story: everything is a process, greatness doesn’t happen overnight.
I disagreed entirely. There were quite a number of arenas that I felt I had already, and effortlessly, achieved greatness in, namely eating, fashion, and the rain stick in elementary orchestra. Since these came so naturally to me, I felt strongly that basketball should comply accordingly.
I didn’t want to get better, I wanted to be better.
There’s a big difference between getting better and being better. At the time, the idea of practicing, growing, or developing was far over my head conceptually. Now, even though I theoretically get it, I still want to sidestep the whole “getting there” process and simply “have arrived”. It’s because I’ve learned that processes are usually long and laborious; they inevitably involve me failing, learning, and trying to do things differently next time. I feel like I don’t have the time or emotional capacity for this. And while I would love to say I’ve outgrown this lovely attitude of mine, I see this same sentiment in every area of my life…
I don’t want to get in shape, I want to be in shape. I don’t want to get organized, I want to be organized. I don’t want to learn patience or self-control, I want to have acquired them already. I want to be holy, sans the whole sanctification process.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could select the “expedited option” like we do at FedEx? Simply forego the whole process and just arrive at the final destination? It would certainly be less messy, but I sense that we would end up lacking in the end. Because as much as I don’t want to admit it, I know that there is beauty in becoming.
One of my favorite quotes by Martin Luther says:
“This life is not godliness but the process of becoming godly, not health but getting well, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way. The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on. This is not the goal, but it is the right road. At present, everything does not gleam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed.”
The process is necessary for logical and practical reasons, but more importantly it’s divinely arranged. God wrote it into the story on purpose. Sometimes I fail to recognize the intentionality of the Divine Author– that there is intentionality, reason, purpose in the process. If he wanted us all to activate and suddenly “have arrived” at a certain time, then he would have arranged it that way. But he didn’t… on purpose.
He meets us in the process, so surely there is hope in it. Surely there is peace and joy and freedom to be found in the midst of the mess. I know there’s hope, because throughout the process we get to lift our eyes to him, cry out to him, find him in the midst of it all because we know that he never leaves us (Dt. 31:6), we know that his mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:2-23), we know that he wrote each and every one of our days before one came to pass (Ps. 139:16), we know that he hems us in before and behind (Ps. 139:5). He’s got us. And because we hold fast to these truths—the truth of the knowledge of the one whose character does not change like the shifting shadows—we are able to lean not on our own perception of our own circumstances, but instead to fix our eyes on the author of our faith and say, “I trust you”. Let us not then begrudgingly wish away the process because there is much beauty in becoming.
“He who began a good work in you will carry it out until the day of completion.” (Phil. 1:6)