Soul work is slow work

We’re spoiled to “instant” things. Instant messaging. Instant coffee. Instant photos. Instant rice. Instant access. Instant results. You get my drift, right? I’m as bad as most and worse than many about the desire for quick outcomes.

While I can defend the value of quick turnaround in many settings, I think it serves me poorly for the most part. It caters to my impatience. No, it serves to magnify my impatience. Not every destination can be reached by a shortcut.

Most of the people I know want to have a good reputation. But that can lead to the shortcut path of doing a good thing for the wrong reason. Doing it to get noticed. Being conspicuous with a gift for the sake of being honored. Building real character as the foundation for a good reputation is a slow thing that takes place over time and without calling attention to oneself. It can take an entire lifetime.

Churches may be the worst offenders of all. We have been given important things to do in this world. We have a mission from Jesus himself to tell everybody about the good news of God’s love. For most churches, this seems to translate to filling up our church buildings and making a splash in our communities. So we get loud, bully our own members, and elbow our way into the consciousness of people who’ve made it clear they aren’t that interested in what we are doing.

Both individual believers and whole communities of Christians seem to fall prey to the temptation. We try to get God’s results with the devil’s methods. We market to someone’s felt needs. Manipulate him with a Christian version of ads that worked in the last political campaign. Manipulate her with guilt into joining a study group or attending a weekend retreat. Something fishy is going on here.

Authentic faith doesn’t lend itself to slogans. Doesn’t advance by mass marketing. Doesn’t transform hearts and lives over a long weekend. Spiritual life is created through a personal relationship with God, nurtured in churches where people challenge and encourage one another, and brought to maturity through struggle and failure over time. There are no shortcuts. The growth of souls in love and faith, joy and peace, self-control and uprightness is slow work.

So be patient with yourself and others. Be skeptical of pat answers and shortcuts but open to struggle and questions. Don’t get fixated on programs for your spiritual growth, but focus instead on caring about others and helping them.

Right where you are today is where God wants to start to build you into a person who will reflect his nature. He won’t rush you. Be patient with yourself.

Reprinted from Rubel Shelly’s Fax of Life.

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