We are perhaps never more aware of our pace through life, as we are at the year’s end. It is a time when I realize how full the year has been; how many things have happened in such a seemingly short time. Life seems to become more and more compressed and time itself seems to bend as the months slide by, like a sleigh ride down a hill that gets steeper and steeper. And yet despite all the speed and the clutter of happenings, one of the frustrating facts that seems to hit me every year is ME. Although the scenery around me is in constant flux, I find over and over that I am still very much the same weak me that I was before.
The years seem to slip by at an infinitely faster rate than my own personal progress. If the change around me is so fast, why is the change inside of me so slow?
This observation used to bother me quite a bit.
But I am learning that real change takes time. This is a most essential reality to make a note of, especially to the christian, for whom change, progress and growth in maturity are central. We all have goals and ideals towards which we strive. We know that we need to be better and greater in many areas in life and we know exactly the changes that need to occur. And yet, the actual movement towards those ideals proves to be a venture wholly other than that of seeing and agreeing with them.
Maybe this is all made even more frustrating by the age of information in which we live. Google means that almost all knowledge is at our fingertips. There is infinitely more information available today than any other time in the history of humanity. We think we know so much just because we have read it in passing, heard about it, or seen it in a Youtube clip. We get excited about a certain idea and we think that we have accomplished monumental change. We buy into the illusion that we are good people because we surround ourselves with good books.
Yet, true knowledge does not reside in mere intellectual apprehension, but in insight. And true change is not just about basic understanding but about an actual shift in our perspective. It’s not only about getting the facts, but about letting them settle. It’s about connecting the dots and seeing new things. These things take time. Our perspective is almost always shallower than we think and our knowledge of the world much more fraught with superficially than we may care to realize. Things are often not what they first appear.
Once again for the christian this is very important to understand. Our progress into maturity has to do with becoming more and more like Christ. A true and living faith in God is not merely about intellectual apprehension of historic facts. It’s about letting those facts settle deep into our bones. Its about knowing the person behind those facts. Getting to know a person is a much greater task than merely reading a book. Christian change happens when Jesus builds himself into us as our relationship with him grows more and more. He peels back the layers of our ignorance concerning ourselves and the world as we learn to see the world as he does.
And all of this takes time. There are no shortcuts to true maturity and wisdom. No search engine can ever generate insight. You need the weight and glory of flesh and bones for that. I’m striving to learning to embrace that. To not content myself with gathering data but to seek for God to really shape me. I am understanding that the uprooting of my pride and selfishness is a ddeeper process than I ever imagined. And yet, although its a slow process, it is a permanent one. The change that God makes in us through Jesus lasts and shines forever. I’ll take those gold nuggets of incremental transformation over all the empty clouds of this informed generation.