“The Christian life is simply a process of having your natural self changed into a Christ self, and this process goes on very far inside.”
C.S. Lewis; Beyond Personality: The Christian Idea of God
One of my brother’s favourite games growing up was Candyland.
He loved it – the coloured pieces, the candy characters, the rainbow ladder that snaked its way up the board. He convinced me to play with him a number of times (try as I might, I was never much of a board game person), and we would set up the game on the carpet of our living room and pull coloured cards to advance our players.
For the most part, Candyland was a game I liked, too. The only trouble was the card selection. Each board came with characters that were randomly placed from the beginning of the board to the end of the board. If you pulled a character card, your plastic gingerbread man would have to scoot to land on the square of the character. If you pulled a character who was close to the finish line right off the bat, you were basically a shoe – in to win.
But if you pulled a character who was situated at the very beginning of the board, and you were almost at the finish line, you’d have to slide all the way back down to the beginning.
And that was the worst part of the whole game.
I don’t play Candyland anymore (and neither does my brother). But I find I play it metaphorically, in my own personal life and in my relationship with the Lord. Don’t we all, at some points?
Our lives become a proverbial game of pushing ourselves forward to the finish line, whether that finish lines looks like further intimacy with the Lord, or external circumstances we want to dwell in by the time we’re fill-in-the-blank years of age, or the list can go on and on. And when we play this game, we find our failures and mistakes pushing us back to square one, like pulling a character card right as we’re about to cross the finish line.
The problem with this process is that it allows us to look at life as a linear approach, with checking boxes and accomplishing a certain agenda by a certain time limit. We can feel that pressure on our shoulders and on our hearts, and never mind when we mess up – tumbling and hurdling back to yellow square one. And so life becomes a careful series of climbs, tiptoeing so as to not make a mistake, making sure all the lines are crossed and the i’s are dotted.
My mistakes yank me farther from God, this thinking says, and once I’m at that yellow square one it’s my job to haul myself back to where I was before, to inch closer to the finish line, this time hoping that I make it past where I was before. Push, fall, push, fall.
No wonder we’re exhausted.
Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” *
We are not finished. The finish line occurs when Jesus comes back. And as far as I’m concerned, that means I’m a work-in-process right up until that day.
There is no yellow square one that I am pulled back to every time I fail. No, instead there is a verse that shouts, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:23)
Not one mention of start lines and finish lines – rather mentions of a process that begins again every morning. I can’t carry the grace of yesterday into today, and I can’t bring today’s grace into tomorrow. Only today, a process in and of itself, until I look back and see my today is composed of a thousand yesterdays, all grace-filled and yet forgotten.
Sanctification is just that, then – a process. It is an awareness of our own humanity, our own brokenness, and God’s infinite grace that continuously, daily, calls us out of ourselves. In light of his grace, our brokenness seems small and incomparable, as it should.
Process, then – a falling forward, a circle, a rhythm, a river.
This day is for today. It does not latch on to tomorrow to create a series of successes or failures, but stands by itself. It allows us to live right in the middle of it, wholly there, fully expectant – because to enjoy the grace of today means dwelling within it, like an ocean, like a rainstorm.
Tomorrow, there is grace again, so rest in today.
*italics added for emphasis.