Most of the time, we don’t see ourselves change in day-to-day ways. We do not develop spiritual disciplines within a week, we don’t grow in love, peace or patience overnight. Often, it is only five, ten, maybe fifteen years later that we can look back in our lives and notice that we have grown in Christ-likeness.
Slow-cooker maturity allows for us to marinate and for experiences and wisdom gleaned from them to season our character. But the flip side of the slow growth into Christ is that we can end up disillusioned.
Because while we mature slowly, we are also driven by immediate impact and consequences. We take action and look for results. This is quite natural to us as humans: we are feedback creatures. In its most glorious form, this is our final dwelling in the Kingdom in which we exist in perfect relationship with God and others, loving and receiving love – a positive feedback loop, if you will. In its current form, however, this desire for results often manifests in manically changing behaviors, attempting to provoke the hoped-for reaction.
It’s a potent combination: feedback-desiring creatures with the reality that change takes time. It’s not a particularly encouraging combination either. We become disillusioned when our greatest spiritual strivings seem to be met with cold silence and unchanging hearts. Frustrations mount; exasperation increases.
All the while, Scripture uses powerful active verbs describing God’s activity in our lives. He loves, transforms, gives grace, empowers. As we wrestle with the seeming discrepancy between these words and our own experience, we come to this realization: Scripture does not promise that we will always see these things happen. In other words, the Spirit at work in our lives often works behind the scenes.
It’s not empirically verifiable. It is gospel-inspired faith that reflects on God’s work in this way. It is faith that says that despite our feelings, the Spirit is working. It is faith that says that what will truly change us is not a series of activities, but an openness and a willingness to allow the Spirit to work as he desires.
Such faith is not rewarded in the short-term. Rather, it requires a long-term vision that anticipates the fruit of “a long obedience in the same direction” (to steal Peterson’s phrase). As we come to this place of faith, we begin to relax into the Spirit’s work, floating in grace, instead of tensing up and beginning to drown in our own frustrations. With that faith, we also remain faithful. We practice the disciplines, seek the Lord’s face, knowing that in the midst of those activities, the Spirit is at work, forming, shaping, and remodeling our hearts.
Sometimes, we may feel this remodeling work. Sometimes, we may not. What we are offered is the peace of faith that the Spirit is at work. This week, may we lean into the Spirit’s behind the scenes work.