Growth is process for all of us. Just look around you. It's spring; time for new birth. Blind, helpless birds wait open-mouthed for mama to provide food. Ducklings waddle in mass, following eagerly, learning to find food. Nature's newborn are immature.
We're no different.
If we’re willing to honestly reflect on the incremental nature of our growth, we’ll have to admit that it’s taken a very long time to really accept and practice some areas of “next steps” that we’ve known cognitively for…well, a long time. If we’re honest, we’ll learn more tomorrow, next month, next year and the year after that. We’re not yet who we’re going to be.
When we’re honest about our own experiences, we realize our practice of faith has taken years to develop. Our journeys have been comprised of many relationships (with Christians and non-Christians alike), good experiences, horrible ones, learned practices, interaction with the Scriptures, and a growing willingness to give our lives to others. We’ve not always been where we are today. We’ve had numerous “you are here” points along the way. And from any given point, we’ve been able to take our next steps only from that place. Like it or not.
I grew up in the church, but I didn’t understand grace until I hit rock bottom and found myself confessing my entire life to a few intimate friends. I’ve claimed to be a law-abiding citizen, but not until my daughter began driving did I really change my driving habits (ok, a couple of them). I’ve not always been where I am. Some of the steps I’ve taken have been the result of many faithful steps over time. I’ve fought and resisted some steps until I had no other choice. And each time I’ve had to take my next step from where I was.
And yet we’re so tempted to expect others to share our current “x.” We must realize once and for all that they can’t. It’s not only improbable, it’s impossible. They can only take the next step from where they are.
And that’s where we must meet people AND accept them. Right where they are.
With their misunderstandings and missed opportunities. With their brokenness and broke-ness. With their hurts and happiness. With their anger and angst. With their steps – those taken, those not taken and the next one that seems impossible to take.
Turns out our stories and “their” stories find their place in God’s grand story of Grace. Yes, grace. Which must suggest that our stories are not cleaned up; they are not written well; they are not proofed or judged “good enough” first. God is at work – now.
God already sent Jesus. Jesus already lived and died and lives now to demonstrate the Father’s position toward us: forgiveness. Acceptance. Right where we are.
I prefer celebrating “original Grace” over “original sin.”
Willard goes on to suggest (see Part 1) that when we commit to getting back into step with God’s original purpose for our created lives, when we commit to following Jesus and his kingdom priorities; then we embark not merely on spiritual formation but in a new chapter of spiritual transformation.
We begin to understand that becoming like Christ—more fully reflecting his image—involves every aspect of our existence: body, mind, soul, and spirit. And as we become more like Christ, we become more the way he made us to be. We become as John Ortberg put it, “the me I want to be.”
Jesus had days when he looked over Jerusalem and “was moved to compassion.” He experienced the personal impact of death when his friend Lazarus died and he wept. He uttered through excruciating pain on the cross, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”
Jesus operated from “original Grace.” We should too.