Last week we talked about observing in the Biblical story that God is often present in what is while moving toward what will be. And we talked about how taking this observation seriously shapes how we read the Bible and how we think about God. It is really significant to think that God reveals things in a way that unfolds in a process and that God is content with humanity, and ourselves personally, having an ongoing growing understanding of God and God’s work in the world. If you haven’t read or listened to that message or podcast, I encourage you to go do so. But there’s one more level to this idea of progress and growth in our understanding that I want to touch on. It is an even more personal one. We’re going to get into that today.
If, as we discussed last week, God is content to be progressively revealed; if God is content to be, for a time, misunderstood for the sake of acting with what is while moving towards what will be, then God doesn’t seem to get bent out of shape with the fact that we aren’t where we ought to be. And God doesn’t seem overly reactive to others being where they, perhaps, need to be right now.
I know that many of us struggle with not being what we wish we were or think we should be. We aren’t as disciplined as we think we should be. We don’t have as much knowledge as we think we should have. We don’t have as good a story as other people. We aren’t as free from our struggles or addictions as we want to be. We aren’t in as good a physical shape as we’d like. We haven’t developed the skill we’ve been practicing as much as we feel we should. The projects around the house haven’t gotten accomplished the way we wanted. We still say - or don’t say - too many things we regret. We struggle with the fact that we aren’t what we feel we ought to be.
And while we think this about ourselves, we can also get caught up in looking at others and thinking these things about them. Be honest. Does this ever happen to you? Do you interact with people you think should be further along than they are and have a little judgment sneak into your thinking? Perhaps we aren’t as patient and loving as we think we should be.
It is easy to get down on ourselves or others and to sit in judgment of ourselves and others. It seems, though, that God’s posture is to meet us exactly where we are. And from there, to keep walking with us.
That was one of the early expressions in the life of Covenant. We wanted to be a church, a community, trying to “Meet people where they are and walk with them.” That really seems to be a reflection of God’s heart and maybe something that we can learn to do not only with others but also with ourselves.
Just recently, I was listening to a podcast and one of the people on it has deep struggles with mental health. They shared about an adventure they went on and part way through that adventure they realized that they were doing something that only a decade ago would have caused them so much anxiety that it would have incapacitated them for a day. They reflected on the fact that they still struggle with mental health challenges and often wish they were further along on the journey to health, but that this experience reminded them just how far they’d come. And it was a reason to celebrate.
If God is happy, not just content or begrudgingly patient with us, but happy to meet us where we are and walk with us, maybe we can do that with ourselves and others, too.
In the mid 90’s I bought a cassette called Shades of Blue. The final song on that record was kind of a spoken word song and one phrase in it has really stuck with me. I’ve since learned that the idea is very old and has been said in a number of different ways, but on this record, the vocalist observed, “We’re not what we oughta be and we’re not what we wanna be and we’re not what we’re gonna be, but thank God we’re not what we were.”
Truly, thank God we’re not what we were. And thank God for graciously and lovingly being with us in what has been and graciously and lovingly being with us in what is while we slowly and often stumblingly walk towards what will be.
We’ll see how well we progress in getting these things going again. We know that we’re not where we wanna be, but we’re working our way ahead slowly together.
As you go through this week, I pray that you can look at something in your life that encourages you - not because you’ve arrived, but because you can see how, by God’s help, you’ve grown. Give thanks to God for being with you through it and for being with you today as you continue on this journey.