I was complaining recently to my trainer that I didn’t think I was making much progress towards my health goals. She paused a moment, and then said, “Well, what gains were you expecting? Because, at this stage of our journey – if you are diligent and focused – you will see subtle changes that let you age well. And may I just emphasize ‘subtle changes’ and ‘age well’? This is a game of inches.”
I have pondered this “game of inches” comment the past week vis-à-vis my spiritual goals. I become frustrated there to – maybe you do not, but I do. I keep wanting to be better at prayer (by which I mean just be able to do it longer without my attention shifting to something else!). I want to be more willing to listen than talk. I want to love more deeply and truthfully. I want lots of things like that – things I think I should be by now, but suspect I am not. I think, however, that I could be in this same “game of inches” in my spiritual journey.
The days of my confession of faith are long behind me. I have read the scriptures enough times that I know most of the stories by heart. I have memorized (and forgotten) long chunks of scripture. I have meditated over scripture and asked God to make it new to me — to help me see Him anew in the pages — because it is so familiar. Please don’t hear me suggesting that I know all scripture by rote or that I have it all stored in my heart. I have a long way to go on both of those. However, my early days of joyful discovery and the newness of my salvation are well behind me. I will not have those large strides in learning that I once had. My behavior is more steady. I am not undergoing radical change in friends or life choices as I once did. In short, I am doing all the things we are told we should be doing to draw closer to God and yet…it seems like my “drawing closer” is slow and in small starts and pieces.
I am in a season of my journey with God where I could so easily become complacent and coast thru my faith. I am in the habit of doing all the things an obedient believer ought to do (read the Bible, pray, journal, go to church, praise, serve others). Yet still I can see my flaws so clearly and wonder if I am making any headway on this journey with God. I would like to be more like Christ. But am I? Am I more like Him this year than last? Did I handle the most recent bumpy part of life with His peace wrapped around me? Do I lean more on Him and less on my bank account or my ability to spout Bible trivia upon command? In short, am I changing? Because I want to.
In my humanity, I’d like to see big changes in me. But in truth, it is probably a “game of inches”. If I am diligent and focused daily on the disciplines I know I should have, then I will see subtle changes and I will finish well.
Honestly, I don’t love the inches. I love the grand gesture, the joy of discovering something profound and new, the moment of life change when I turn away from sin and towards God. Is it still possible to have large strides in my faith? Yes. Remember the “refining fire” in 1 Peter? Yep, that could do it. Or The Holy Spirit could just swoop in and remove some sin in my life. So it is still possible to have “the grand gesture” and “the moment of life change”. Yet I am not seeing that today. Today I am seeing the game of inches. Perhaps this is true of you also?
If so, my fellow inch-ers, let us gather together and exhort one another to excellence and diligence in our game of inches. Galatians 6:9 (NIV) says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” I don’t want to give up. Nor do I want to become complacent in my current spot. I want to press in, press on, gain the prize! And this means – today – being diligent and faithful, cherishing the subtle changes that will let me finish well.