“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.”
During our orientation, we have been speaking much of how important flexibility is on the mission field. It’s been killing me a little bit because if I’m honest with myself, I am not a flexible being. I am high strung. I’m a planner. I like to know what I can expect. I do not know how to roll with the punches. And so I feel like I will fail. I feel afraid of moving overseas because I look at how I’m coping here and now, and I know it will fall far short of what is required over there. I start to stress over whether I’m a horrible fit for this ministry and maybe they should find someone else.
Much of this transition has been a series of facing up to how I fall short. Attitudes, struggles, and bents that are not Christ-like, discouragement over how slow and invisible the growth and progress seem to be, anxiety as I notice how others seem to be taking in stride what constitutes a major upheaval in my life. Man, is it messy when I look in the mirror.
But I have been sitting with these words from Philippians and considering the choice of the phrase “press on.”
The word press holds the idea of moving forward against resistance.
“All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all His glorious power so that you will have all the endurance and patience you need…”
This walk with the Lord, this learning to know Him better and better and growing to be like him; it’s an uphill battle, it takes endurance, it is pressing against resistance.
And patience allows for a slower pace because it acknowledges the resistance I am facing.
And so I need the strength that Christ offers to be patient with myself, to continue taking up hope and pressing on when I’m starting to feel like a hopeless case.
In her book, Beholding and Becoming, Ruth Chou Simons says this:
“God is more interested in how we keep running than how fast and flawlessly we get to our destination. He calls perseverance the outcome of a faith in progress and tells us how to keep on keeping on with diligence and hope, even when we don’t see or feel progress in the now…Beholding how Christ endured the cross helps us set our gaze on His provision and not our performance along the course…”
How I need the reminder that God asks me to keep going, even if it’s not going smoothly. I can set my eyes on his provision and he is pleased if I just take the next step, however clumsy, trusting in that. He is not wishing I would get it together faster.
When I decided to follow after Christ, I signed up for a mud run. Obstacle after obstacle, stumbling upon stumbling, but pressing forward, even if that progress sometimes happens at a crawl.
And so, may I learn to take up his strength to be patient with myself and with my journey, because this does not look like I expected it to. I am in pain over how slow and invisible the progress is. But I can surrender my pace and my progress to him. I can decide that he knows what he’s doing and be patient with where I am, internally and externally, because I know he is taking me somewhere good, and I have confidence he can get me there.
I can be light-hearted, even as I see areas that desperately need growth, even as I struggle on repeat, even when it seems like I will never figure out how to handle things better, because I know what he is capable of. He will not abandon a slow pupil, because he is a skilled teacher.
Patience is a resolve not to worry about the timing, that flows from confidence in what the outcome will be. So I will take my inflexible tendencies, my weaknesses and issues and struggles, and lay them at his feet. I will be patient, and I will take up great hope.
If I rest my gaze on what he is able to do in me, I will find that seeing my issues loud and clear does not have to prompt worry in my heart.
Great hope says this: I do not know how to do this yet, but Christ is my teacher, so I can learn. I do not feel prepared for what’s ahead, but he is prepared to carry me through it. I am not able, but he is always able. He does not ask me to be fast; he asks me to be faithful. And when I stumble, he does not yell: That’s it! You’re through!
He comes alongside my brokenness and whispers: “I’m here. Keep going.”