We often played baseball in the neighborhood church parking lot. I was ten or eleven years old, hands on my knees, bending forward, waiting for the next fly ball in centerfield to come my way. This was the first identifiable moment I felt the secret stirring of faith in my heart as I glanced up admiring the church steeple. Since then, there have been many incremental changes I have been compelled to make and a few of what I refer to as instant changes I have been blessed enough to receive. I would like to share what I have learned about changing.
Instant change is dramatic and less frequent; Incremental change is the norm and less cataclysmic and pronounced. One example of the contrast between incremental and instant change is our spiritual rebirth. In John 3:5 this spiritual rebirth is called being Born Again! Some believers have a clear and definite moment that they can pinpoint in which they experienced an instant and cataclysmic spiritual rebirth. In contrast, for some believers, their rebirth is more incremental, a series of spiritual renewal, but is no less transformational or life changing.
So let’s look at how change happens most of the time in the Christian life: In my view, it is best to ratchet down our expectations and accept the reality that most of the changes we are working on are incremental. This is mainly because change is a real challenge for most of us. God introduces us to how challenging change can be in the book of Jeremiah, Can you ever change and do what’s right? Can man change the shade of their skin, or can a leopard remove its spots? This verse emphasizes, among other things, how much work it is to change in any meaningful way. Sometimes it even takes a lifetime: when improving counts as much as succeeding.
Instant change is about God’s power and much less about our effort. We receive it mostly, we do not work it out much. In Genesis, Jacob struggled with his spirituality and life choices but in an instant was changed into a better man after losing a wrestling match with an Angel. The wrestling match was a snapshot of his life struggles. Although we all admire Jacob’s perseverance in life as indicated in his struggle with the angel, a closer look reveals that losing the wrestling match and his subsequent transformation was a snapshot of an instant change when we are forced to give up or simply receive what God has for us. I suspect that we will not wrestle with an angel anytime soon, but we can expect some instant transformational experiences that really change things up for us, as we move along in our faith.
Knowing the difference between incremental and instant change can help us to be less frustrated. It can also give us the opportunity to have more practical and sensible expectations regarding our spiritual growth and life progress. So relax, do your best and God will do the rest!
Joseph C. Hutchison, Rochester Hills, Michigan 2020
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I’ve been doing a bit of wrestling myself of late. So, for me, this article is very timely. \o/