I don’t always enjoy reading scripture. Some days the thought of spending one minute in silence sounds excruciating. If prayer is supposed to be a conversation with God, then my side of the conversation is haphazard, stunted, disjointed, and superficial. What I am trying to say is that the spiritual life isn’t always pleasant or full of rich experiences. Sometimes it just feels like a chore.
What has fascinated me recently is the process more than the finished product.
Established artist and writers understand the process much better than others. David Bayles and Ted Orland in their book, Art and Fear, state, “To all viewers but yourself, what matters is the product: the finished artwork. To you, and you alone, what matters is the process: the experience of shaping the artwork.” Jerry Seinfeld doesn’t set out to write stand-up comedy routines, he just tries to write a joke a day. Success for him is his calendar full of red X’s showing each of the days he was able to write a joke. Similarly, writing tips talk about sitting down daily and just writing and not trying to perfect or edit until you have gotten a set number of words or pages completed. What is important is the act, the discipline, the reps, the practice.
So, why is it in our spiritual life, we read a couple of scriptures, say a couple of prayers, read a devotional whenever we get around to it and expect the finished product of our lives to be developed and mature and noteworthy? Was great art or a great athletic team or a great leader developed by just dabbling in their craft?
The spiritual life, so much more than other areas, requires off-the-spot training. For example, by spending time understanding Jesus’ sacrifice or studying love or working through our need for humility, this allows us preparation off-the-spot that assists us to be Christlike on-the-spot.
It is like Danny LaRusso from the original Karate Kid toiling away washing Mr. Miagi’s car and painting his fence. It all seemed pointless and ineffective until Mr. Miagi began sparing with him and the moves he had ingrained in his body through the chores of washing and painting were able to withstand and react with precision and effectiveness. The practice off-the-spot allowed him to perform on the spot.
I have seen this happen in my own life. Not in every case, for their are many areas where there is still great work to do, but when faced with deep struggle or challenge, I realize that have some of the spiritual resources and capacity to handle these obstacles because of the work I have done in practice and developed through the process.
If you are not seeing the spiritual results you expected God to have changed by now, perhaps you are not paying enough attention to the process of devoting energy, intention, time, and resources to Growing Up in Christlikeness. Care about this process, be committed to it. God will honor it and the Holy Spirit will guide you in it. Not just for achievement sake but for benefit of your personal well-being and those around you.