Embracing the Pain of Process

Man at the sunrise

The best things in life undergo a process. Whether it’s chili slowly stewing in a crockpot until all the ingredients meld together into the perfect harmony of flavors, or a film working its way from a spark of inspiration to a story board and eventually a masterpiece of cinematic sound, emotion and imagery. Even a human life being knit together cell by cell in the womb, birthed and then raised minute by minute, day by day, year by year into adulthood and beyond.

Process takes time though. And it’s often difficult. Maybe not as much with chili….but raising children? Definitely. Walking out what we feel God has called us to? Absolutely. It can be tempting to rush the process, to search for shortcuts. In fact, our world today revolves around shortcuts. We are so busy running from one place to the next physically and mentally that we pounce on any convenience that claims to increase our efficiency. Microwaves, drive-thrus, instant everything and every sort of productivity app guaranteed to make us more efficient at doing whatever it is we deem important. The pursuit of packing more punch into each and every day is endless.

It’s no surprise, then, that we often also attempt to rush the process of what God is forming in and through us. Constant comparisons on social media cause us to feel as though life is behind schedule. So we frantically try to accomplish more. Or to at least give the appearance that we are making the most of our lives by strategically posting carefully crafted images online for the world to wonder at. And we often succeed in our deception, only to perpetuate those same feelings of falling short in those around us as they view our own digital highlight reel. Yet we’re no closer to actually changing the world than we were before. Not only do we dream of changing the world, we hope to do it at a remarkably young age. To be 30 and unknown feels like failure. We mistakenly measure success by resumes and ratings rather than that which is intangible and internal. We look for shortcuts and ways to forcibly open doors of opportunity.

What we don’t realize is that many of the people we compare ourselves to have been through, or are currently in their own process. We see the fully formed plant blossoming above ground but are completely unaware of the root system hidden beneath the dirt. Or how long that root system took to form. Or the pain of their process. Plants can’t survive without a root system. Roots are necessary for nourishment and growth. They keep the plant from washing away in a storm. You can snip that rose from the bush but it will only survive a few days without being grafted into a life-giving root system.

There is a process familiar to gardeners called cold-stratifictation. In this process seeds are nicked or scratched in order to allow the cold and moisture of the winter season to penetrate their hard, outer shells. Seeds that have undergone this process are often able to be planted in the fall instead of spring, allowing their roots to grow below the earth’s surface during the stagnant winter months. When the ground thaws these plants have a head start on their spring-planted counterpart. In fact, without this nicking process some seeds will never move out of dormancy in order to bloom.

In the same way, the winter seasons of our lives in which we feel nothing is growing or moving forward and we feel anxious to get where we’re going, God is actually working in us the depth of character needed to sustain what he is calling us to step into. As the sun returns, the winter snow that frustrated us with hiddenness and stagnancy melts to become the water needed to catapult the thirsty seedling’s fragile face upwards through soil and into the daylight. The inner strength formed in winter’s blizzards, the character built through months of dormancy, and the foundation that remained unshaken for the previous season are the nourishment necessary to take us into the next season.

Are you willing to be nicked or scratched and go through the winter so you can be watered and bloom in the spring? Or do you remain hard and dormant? Without going through the process God has set in motion we will never fully mature and any “success” we experience in life will be tainted and short-lived with the potential to destroy us.

Learn to love the process. Learn to love the sometimes painful processes God uses to awaken us from dormancy and cause us to bloom. Comfortable situations rarely inspire growth. The point at which we feel stretched beyond our comfort zone is the moment we begin to grow. Muscle fibers must tear in order to grow stronger. Our bones must bear weight to gain strength. Our physical bodies are designed to experience discomfort in order to grow stronger and our mind, will and emotions are no exception. No pain, no gain.

Yet there is a beautiful freedom found in the bright light of God’s grace. There is a different kind of comfort found in Him. As he gently uproots all of our old mindsets, dysfunctions, and brokenness it can feel uncomfortable or even painful. We may feel embarrassed as he reveals immaturity, pride, selfishness or insecurity in our hearts. But if we know his heart we know we can trust him to put us back together again. He never shames us. He never condemns us. We can submit to him heart, mind and soul, trusting that he doesn’t look at our surrender and insufficiency with disdain or disgust but instead as an opportunity to be strong in our weakness.

He is sufficient for everything we lack. And he knows not just what we need to become successful, but who we need to become.

 

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