We have good days and bad days.
But one bad day might not capture the bigger story. Growth and progress is seldom linear.
There are good reasons to zoom in and examine a bad day. Maybe there are lessons to learn. In the Christian journey, there are sins of which to repent, confession to offer, behavior to change, justice to seek, mending and reconciliation that needs to be done.
And some days, life goes sideways and there is not much we can do other than to endure it and press on, to turn the page and start the next day fresh.
That one is over. On to the next one.
After a miss in basketball, I say to myself, “The next one is going in.” After a loss, I tell myself, “Back to work.”
There are also good reasons to zoom out and consider where you are today in comparison to where you were a month ago, six months ago, a year ago, a decade ago. You might discover you are further along than you thought.
The graph above could be misleading, since the measure of progress is “up and to the right.” Maybe all you need is plot points between A and B. One line. A is where you begin. B is where you want to be. There may be ups and downs. There might even be reversals: one step forward and two steps back. But are you closer today to B than the day you began? Can you see it? Or can trusted friends see it? Are you grateful for the change? Do you celebrate the growth you have seen? Do you live in the joy of renewal? Or do you get bogged down, zooming in on the bad days, bad moments, and become discouraged? Are you spiraling in the wrong direction? Do you need a reset?
When you have one bad moment, don’t allow it to become two. When you have one bad day, don’t allow it to become two. Instead, return to formational habits, reorient yourself toward the goal (however far on the horizon), and do the daily, small things leading to success. Be disciplined. Keep going.
In Colossians 1:28, Paul writes:
He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.
The principles above apply to anyone with a goal, anyone desiring growth and working toward it. Paul had a goal in mind: to lead others to maturity in Christ. Growth is part of the Christian life. If you want to become “fully mature in Christ,” conformity to Jesus is the target. Romans 13:14 exhorts us to “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
How do we do it? By keeping a constellation of commitments while moving toward our true North Star. Prayer is a key commitment, as is worship, fellowship, study. There are other disciplines, too, any virtues to be sought, developed, and instilled, including faith, hope, and love.
Whatever the means and whatever the virtues, above them all, we seek Jesus. He will supply what we need at the time we need it. We say, “I want to know you.” We say, “I want to learn from you.” We say, “My life is in your hands. Teach me.” We say, “Open my ears, my eyes, my heart.” We say, “Whatever is wrong in me, point it out, and heal me.” We say, “Whatever it takes for me to become like you, I trust you to lead me.”
His nail-scarred hand is extended to you. You take it. You grip it tight. You say, “I will not let you go.” You go where he goes and where he sends. In his earthly ministry, he worked alongside his disciples, but he also sent them out and remained at a distance, allowing them to experience a few things. You trust he is true to the promise to always be with those who are his. Just because he may not feel near does not mean that he is not with. Growth and progress in the Christian life is relational, communal, and personal. It occurs “with God.”
Change is possible. Growth is possible. Progress can be made. The process isn’t easy, nor is it always “up and to the right.” It is seldom quick and it takes work to sustain.
Get clear on the vision. Make your commitments. And then take up the actions and assume the attitudes that move you toward the goal, not away from it. There may be bad days. I’ll go a step further. There will be bad days. But keep the bigger picture in view. Take on a broader perspective. Keep moving in the right direction.