It has often been said that Jesus Christ loves you and accepts you just the way you are. The flip side of that coin is that Jesus loves you too much to allow you to stay the way you are. As a Christian, it can often be hard to tell what God is doing in your life because we don’t really know the subtle ways the Spirit chisels us and how those subtle changes lead to an all together “new creation.”
When I was about 8 years old, my family moved into a new house. It was a house that my dad designed. The inside and outside of the house was built to his specification, but there was one thing that he couldn’t really control—there were no trees around our house. My dad loves trees so he decided he would just plant his own, knowing that it would take a long time for those trees to grow. Several of the trees began no larger than my thumb. My dad nurtured them, fertilized them, and placed supporting beams when necessary. The problem was it was not working. From my perspective nothing my dad did working. The trees remained the same exact size.
Nevertheless, my dad carried out the daily routine of watering, shading, fertilizing etc. I, on the other hand, quickly lost interest. In my mind the trees would eventually shrivel up and die.
A few weeks later I walked past one of the trees and it was no longer the length of my thumb, but was now about as tall as my middle finger. I was astonished but my dad was not surprised. Now, 17 years later, most of the trees are tall and stable. My parents have since added more landscaping and our yard is almost unrecognizable to what it was when we first moved in.
Such is the Christian life. It is slow and at times painful because it doesn’t feel like you are making any progress but we have hope because the process of growing is not our responsibility. We only need to be like trees. My dad took the responsibility to water, fertilize, trim, and support—the tree had nothing to do with that process. The tree grew when it acted like a tree. Had it been possible that the tree try to be something else, the process would not have worked. The trees could not provide for their own needs, rather they are completely dependent on other elements (water, sunshine, etc.)
So do not be discouraged if you feel your progress is slow, because radical change takes time. It could be that Jesus is doing something in you that you never thought possible. Maybe God is in the process of exceeding your expectations, which may not have immediate, over night results.
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right, and stopping the leaks in the roof, and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably, and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to?
The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of– throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
–C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (London: William Collins, 1970), 172.