~~On Sunday evening at eight o’clock, just as we were all settling in for the evening, my son came into the living room and said, “So….” , which is always an unnerving way to begin a conversation. He had just received a text from his video production teacher asking him to consider filling in for a team that had dropped out of a national film competition. He needed an answer immediately. Oh, and by the way, the deadline is Wednesday at 4 pm. 72 hours. To write, cast, shoot, and edit a 3-minute short (It doesn’t sound like much, but that’s three times longer than the longest commercial you typically see on television). 72 hours. School days. Of course his immediate response was, “There’s no way!” But we counseled him to think big-picture, and in spite of some really nasty complications and other major obligations, he agreed.
We’re now 2 hours and 24 minutes on the other side of his deadline, and I could not be more proud. And I’ve learned something profound. See, while I’m proud of the result of his effort, I’m more proud of the effort itself. While I hope that his film finds favor with those who will be weighing and measuring it, I care less about the win, and more about what he gained in the process. It makes me wonder if we’re profoundly missing the point when it comes to our own spiritual growth. Maybe the value is in the process, not the outcome. After all, the outcome is assured, and in fact, it’s already complete in Christ, so why do we focus more on getting there than we do on what takes place along the way?
Over the next couple of days, as Wil looks back over the experience, I want him to think about what he learned – about himself, about the work and how it suits him, about God’s role in his success. I want to know what he would do differently, what was hard for him and what was easy, and how he could better equip himself for the next time. I want to know how he felt during the process and what he did with those feelings: how he managed them and pushed through them to focus on the work. I want to know what he thinks about himself and his character on the other side of this experience. I want him to think about these things. I want him to assimilate them into his own personal awareness until he really recognizes the man he sees in the mirror. Flaws, weaknesses, strengths…all of it…a pure reflection of the on-going the work of God.
Don’t you think this is what God wants too?
I could go on here and talk about all the things that we saw as Wil made his way through this challenge, but that would be a waste of valuable white space, because what I really want you to take away is the stunning certainty that God is watching you. He’s watching you struggle. And sometimes He’s extraordinarily proud of the effort you’re making and the fact that you agreed to do the work to begin with. And sometimes He’s sad that you won’t ask for help; He’s waiting in the wings to provide whatever will move you forward, you need only ask. He’s wondering what you’re learning about yourself, and Him, and faith. He wants to know if you see your mistakes, and are determined to shore up weaknesses for next time. And He’s waiting for the meltdown. Because He’ll be there on the other side of the adrenaline rush, sheer panic, desperation, futility, hopefulness, certainty, and exhilaration to ask you the important question. Not, “Did you win?” but “What did you learn?” It’s the process that matters. It’s the process that makes us more like Christ.
So the next time your text tone bings at you to issue a challenge, don’t be too quick to say no. The next time God throws down the gauntlet, don’t run. Take a leap into the unknown where there is risk of failure and humiliation, and just work the process until you come out on the other side saying, “Huh! Didn’t know I could do that.” while God stands applauding.