Growth within a grace context is more easily measured, I am learning, than growth within a law context.
As long as I am measuring my growth by what I do and do not do, I will always see more that I ought to be doing. The more I see, the less I want to do and growth is stunted. In grace, though, I am nearly blind to my doing, waking one day surprised to see the ground that's been taken. Struck by the besetting sins and habits that aren't even hunched in the corners of my closets anymore.
There are new ones, to be sure, but the old ones have taken their leave.
One of the best spiritual disciplines I've been assigned is to read through The Valley of Vision and rewrite prayers in my own words. Sometimes prayer feels stilted or repetitive, and this puts voice to some otherwise stale attempt. This past week I've been reading prayers in my head, praying them with my voice. But I also went back and reread some of my rewritten prayers from some really dark spiritual seasons.
The same prayers that are yielding such life to me today felt like funeral dirges to me a year, two years, four years ago. Because hopelessness was my bent, hopelessness was all I felt, even in the face of hope.
I meet so many people these days who feel hopeless in the face of their circumstances. God has taken leave of them, if feels and I know this feeling. I know it as clearly as I know the hope I have today. I am well acquainted with the shrugged shoulders and shaking head, the hard heart and weak or non-existent faith.
A few days ago in a study I'm doing at church, one of the questions was "Recall a situation in which you felt humbled by God."
The truth I am finding is that I am most humbled by God when I acknowledge the truth about how I see Him. Not the truth I want to see about Him. Not the truth that everyone else wants me to see about Him.
Just the way I see Him.
And if I am struggling to see His goodness or faithfulness or the hope He offers, I tell Him that.
Because He is not surprised by those feelings and He is not scrambling around trying to put me into situations where I'll be forced to see His fullness.
He is gentle and long-suffering and just and always on time.
And He does not change.
We go from glory to glory, faith to faith, doubt to doubt, and He stays the same. Always good, always faithful, always merciful, always just, always there. He is the best person to whom to confess your valley prayers.
He always abides on the mountains of grace.