Can They Tell How Much You’ve Grown?

Sanibel Causeway, Beach Island A

Hey, Dad. Can we stop here, like last year? 

Sure, guys. Let’s do it. 

Breathe in. Love is patient. Breathe out. Love is kind. Breathe in. Love does not insist on its own way. Breathe out. Put on love. 

And by the time I pushed that third breath out, our Caravan had coasted off the highway and onto Sanibel Causeway Beach Island A. Not Sanibel Island Beach. A causeway beach.

Which just so happened to be the exact site of an ugly show a year ago. After 2 days and 21 hours in the car, this let’s-just-get-there Mom pushed back against laid-back Dad.

Taking The Causeway Test

You see, the Causeway is the super-long bridge that connects the mainland with the island. It’s the last three miles of the 1,500 odd miles from Wisconsin to Sanibel.

For perspective, think: grilling out on a Friday night, table set, dinner starting to sizzle when the grill runs out of gas. Stopping to play at Causeway Island A is pausing to fill the grill when the scent is in the air. It almost hurts.

Because while love is patient, Abigail is naturally not. She prefers her own get-settled agenda to their let’s-get-out-and-explore interest.

As if a measly 20 minutes tagged on to 22 hours could steal her joy and get her to grumble.

Alas, it was enough. Last year, it did. She failed the causeway test.

But as long as there’s life, there’s hope. 

If God Commands It, We Can Do It

Bad habits, sinful patterns, aren not a life sentence for those who are in Christ. They needn’t keep us bound. We grow. We change. We progress. Christians are real lifelong learners

Peter said, Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:18), and Paul said others ought to be able to see our progress (1 Timothy 4:15). John said everyone who practices righteousness is righteous (1 John 3:7b).

So even though impatience plagues me, or worry or bitterness plague you, we don’t have to give way.  We grow and progress and practice.

Andree Seu takes status quo Christians to task.

If God commands it, we can do it. Just because you have never done it before is no proof that you cannot do it starting today. Just because you don’t know anyone who seems joyful is no proof that it’s not possible. Be the first on your block. “Let God be true though every man a liar.”

We don’t have settle. In Christ, abiding in His Word, we grow. We progress. We bear the fruit of righteousness. We don’t have to accept that how I am is how I will be. No- Beholding his glory we are transformed. We don’t have to stay how we are.

You Don’t Have To Settle

Past experience- say, previous Causeway Island A failure- needn’t dictate present reality. Patience is possible.

But our enemy would have us believe it’s not; that we can’t change. He’d gladly deceive us into thinking that impatient, or worrier, or grumbling me is the me I will always be.

That’s flat out wrong. We ought to encourage one another, as long as it’s called today, not to hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. And one of the big deceptions about sin is that we’re stuck where we’re at.

I’m just impatient, and he’s always had a bad temper. She’s just that way. But we are no longer slaves to sin.

Seu again, talking about her own fight with a besetting sin of worry,

The last thing [the devil] wants us to know is that we are able to wake up on any Tuesday morning and choose joy—and keep choosing it all day long as often as the buzzards of worry start to gather overhead. It may not be easy at first, due to force of habit. But we’re called to warfare, to fighting the good fight. What else can this mean but to talk to yourself rather than listening to yourself?

So I did. By grace, as we pulled of the causeway and onto Island A, I did. I breathed in: Love is patient. I breathed out: Love is kind. I breathed in: Love does not insist on its own way. And I breathed out: Put on love. Put on patient love. 


And without a word, I got on my shoes and followed the boys onto the sand. 

So All May See Your Progress

I passed the test. God was gracious and I took a breath and talked to myself. I spoke God’s truth to myself. I was a little more patient than last year. And that’s progress.

It’s a small thing, really. So why do I even spend the time to record it?

Only because I want you to know that this- baby steps, having soaked in God’s Word, breathing it out- this is how we grow.  We talk to ourselves and don’t let past failure dictate obedience now. It’s not one and done, all or nothing. We don’t arrive until heaven.

Life is struggle. And Christian life is progress. Progress that can be noticed. Paul instructed young Timothy to set an example in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity, and to use his God-given gifts.

Practice these things, Paul wrote, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress (1 Timothy 4:15).

Better Than Before

If your friends or sister or husband or wife compared you now with the you they knew 2 or 22 years ago, would they, like Paul wrote to Timothy, see your progress? Could they note growth?

Are you less irritable, more kind? Do you worry less, trust more? Are you less pushy, more patient? Are you conquering in some measure?

But, we all stumble many ways, you say. And they’re not the same ways. True. Different sins beset each of us.

But if we’re in Christ, we will grow up into Christ. We don’t all grow at the same rate, but fixing our eyes on Christ, we will progress in the race marked out for us. Causeway Island A was a sort of mile marker in mine.

So that all may see your progress, Paul wrote Timothy. Progress in faith means growth in grace means better- more like Christ- than before. Matthew Henry wrote, May every believer be enabled to let his profiting appear unto all men; seeking to experience the power of the gospel in his own soul, and to bring forth its fruits in his life. The ones near us should see our growth. Every one of us, in Christ, should be better, holier, more like Jesus, than we were before.

Compared with the you your friends knew 2 or 22 or 42 years ago, are you better than you were? Are you less irritable, more kind? Are you less worried, pray more? Are you less pushy, more patient? Slower to anger, quicker to forgive? Are you conquering in some measure?

With Christ in us we should be better than before.

Celebrate And Keep On

It strikes me that progress in grace is worth celebrating. Pressing on when it’s slow-going is too.

Here are two takeaways for us who want to grow:

1. Celebrate the progress we see. I know it’s risky to call this sort of progress out. After all, it implies that there was room for growth. In my case, it means admitting the ugliness of my impatient outburst. When we celebrate these baby-step successes, we’re not celebrating ourselves. We’re celebrating the God who is at work in us to will and act for his good pleasure (Philippians 4:13).

2. Don’t give up if progress is slow. Direction not perfection. Still, we don’t excuse our failures because of bad experiences, or temperament or how we were brought up. We don’t give up because we know the Father who knows our frame (Psalm 103:14). So we keep on. God knows.

If you are a poor creature-poisoned by a wretched upbringing in some house full of vulgar jealousies and senseless quarrels…nagged day in and day out by an inferiority complex that makes you snap at your best friends-do not despair. He knows all about it. You are one of the poor whom He blessed. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying to drive. Keep on. Do what you can. One day (perhaps in another world, but perhaps far sooner than that) he will fling it on the scrap-heap and give you a new one. And then you may astonish us all-not least yourself: for you have learned your driving in a hard school.  (Mere ChristianityNice People or New Men)

But grow in the grace and knowledge of Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. 

Amen. 

2 Peter 3:18

Sanibel Causeway Island B, Facing the Sanibel Island Lighthouse

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