On perseverance: to become an everlasting splendor
by Sarah Colyn
I recently scanned the New York Times list of best-selling advice books and noticed a strong theme: results now. It’s in our nature to want quick rewards for our efforts and swift gratification of our desires. Top-selling books offer a lifestyle makeover for health and weight loss in just 30 days, and de-cluttering that will magically transform your home in an instant. We are creatures who feel soothed and excited by the prospect of getting what we want right away. Perhaps you’ve seen a baby escalate from a mellow cry expressing her desire to be held or fed into a disintegrated wail if mother’s response comes too slowly. This demand for immediate gratification and intolerance of waiting suits an infant who is rightly at the beginning of character development. But those who have heard the call to maturity in Christ must lift their eyes to a more thrilling horizon than “I want it now.” We are called to become the men and women we truly are, those “everlasting splendors” who will live forever with our God, and we are called to help one another along in this becoming we call discipleship (Lewis, The Weight of Glory, p. 9).
A publisher might have a hard time selling many copies of a book with bright call-outs on the cover that promise: Slow results! Imperceptible gains! You’ll see change years later! Yet wisdom points to the special worth of things that take time to grow, and surely our natural admiration of long-term endeavors is a gift from God: “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV). While the world panders to our impatient impulses, the greatness of Christ’s call stirs our hearts. The very fact that our Father asks something of us that will put meaning into every moment of a lifetime breathes on an ember deep within the soul. In Something Beautiful for God, Malcolm Muggeridge notes that so many were drawn to join Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity exactly because everything was asked of them. He laments how churches are turning to follow the world’s marketing techniques, “directed toward softening the austerity of the service of Christ and reducing its hazards with a view of attracting people into it” (p. 52). True Christian leaders, taking their example from Christ Himself, inspire us to commitments that operate on the scale of eternity. Leanne’s book Listening Prayer is one such inspiration, showing how to begin a daily practice of dialog with God that will only accumulate over weeks, months, years and decades into profound transformation of character and power in ministry.
Those of us recovering from addictions learn the value of committing to slow results. Patrick Carnes is a gifted researcher who has pioneered treatments that foster real healing from life-destroying sexual addictions. In his book, Recovery Start Kit he explains the commitment required for healing and the timeframe in which we can expect results: “The process takes ultimately three to five years before cravings cease to be a day-to-day problem.” From the perspective of our flesh, this is an unappealing sales pitch: three to five years of strenuous daily submission to a program of recovery and a long wait for noticeable results. But through eyes illuminated by God’s grace, we begin to look at time and commitment differently. What astonishingly good news: a person enslaved to impulses that threaten to destroy everything he or she holds dear can have hope of lasting recovery. What is five years to spare one’s life, to save one’s marriage, to deliver one’s children from the generational damage of addiction? The consequences of addiction often bless us with a desperation that pushes us into such long-term commitment and delivers us from false hope in quick fixes. Surely every man and woman who seeks the kingdom of God needs this commitment to persevere.
For followers of Christ there is no higher calling than to submit ourselves to a process of transformation that has eternity as its horizon. In Christ-centered healing ministries such as MPC we certainly do see God accomplish deep healing in an instant. He is able to touch the earliest memories and most crippling wounds with His miraculous grace, and to cleanse the darkest stains with His redeeming blood. We want and need Him to do so, we rejoice in these miracles, and it is right for us to eagerly desire relief from our suffering. But Christian maturity also calls us to patiently wait on Him, to settle ourselves into a stability of purpose. Our eyes are lifted to God and His eternal will. This gives us strength to wait for complete fulfillment, tolerating the tension of the now-and-not-yet of wholeness in Him. While our flesh insists that we need relief, comfort, and satisfaction now, stabilitas is a virtue that commits us to that which is unshakeable and sure: forever-life with our God. What a tragedy when we abandon the pursuit of benefits we could possess forever because of temptations and discomforts that will fade and wither like the grass of summer. The meek choices that cultivate stabilitas are made moment by moment. Praise God for His grace that inspires us to stay with those daily practices that may seem weak and poor to the eyes of man. For surely our submission to slow results and imperceptible gains is accruing rewards that are joyful and glorious beyond imagination. In the meanwhile, know that we at MPC are cheering you on as you choose again today to show up for your personal prayer time, small group, recovery meeting, daily mass, and humble acts of love and service. The day is coming when we will laugh together in delight at the fullness of transformation God has completed in us!
Photos courtesy of Kanok and Africa at freedigitalphotos.net
What does God use to lift your eyes to the horizon of eternity? I’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.