“You can’t fast-forward an apple (or a strawberry). Fruit grows slow.” When I stumbled across this image on Caroline’s Instagram story, my jaw dropped. It was like God wanted me to be scrolling Instagram that morning! Yep—I said it. God can use Instagram. You’re welcome.
If you’ve been following me a little while, you know that something I talk about a lot is the process God uses to root us, shape us, and grow us so that we might love and serve others. I love talking about it because the process is the same for all of us, but it’s so personal to each of us. Sometimes God uses people, other times God uses circumstances, but most times God uses the truth found in Scripture to open our eyes over time to the reality of His presence, love, mercy, grace, and guidance.
You’ve probably heard me share stories of how certain people have impacted my faith—I like to sprinkle their names in my blog posts like confetti because their impact on my faith is worth celebrating! I’ve also talked with you about some really pivotal circumstances I’ve endured, which God has used to shape me into the woman I am today—the woman I am still becoming. I want to dive into the part of my process of knowing God through Scripture because this is an area where I’ve seen the most progress over the past several years and it has prepared me for little and big moments where God is inviting me to join in.
I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Up until about 7-8 years ago, I really didn’t read my Bible. When I did, I read it devotionally or, more likely, I was prompted to read it by an external pressure (i.e. I was at church camp, my pastor said “Open your Bible to blah-blah verse”, my friend Kalen invited me to a Bible study, etc.). I didn’t crave reading Scripture and I didn’t really understand people who did. They talked about their morning quiet time (like it was actually quiet and there were candles and fuzzy blankets and journals and hot coffee and like the Holy Spirit was with them) and it sounded lovely, but in my mind, I was throwing up.
Who does quiet time? Turns out a lot of people do and I was probably the only person (not really, but it felt that way) who didn’t and it was showing. My friends who regularly engaged in reading the scriptures were different. Like better different. Not like better than—they were better because. I wanted to be like them—to know where to go when they needed to be reminded of God’s provision, goodness, presence, or instruction. They seemed to have verses, sometimes entire passages of Scripture memorized. One summer, my sweet friend Elizabeth was working on memorizing Psalm 19. You guys—all of Psalm 19.
So naturally, I avoided quiet time, but here’s why:
I hate getting up early.
I hate when people boss me.
I hate feeling dumb.
I hate feeling like an amateur.
I hate pumpkin or vanilla scented candles.
I hate trying to do something I’m not good at.
I hate when people watch me do stuff.
I hate admitting to my shortcomings.
But, I really hate missing out.
It was that last one—the FOMO (fear of missing out) that kept coming up. I wanted to know God better. I wanted to know the stories. I wanted to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit more often. I wanted to hear God speak to me through Scripture. I wanted to read the Bible for myself. I wanted all of those things, but if I’m really honest I just wanted to be the kind of person I admired—I wanted to be Elizabeth without doing the things she did.
I wanted to be generous without understanding the story of God’s generosity. I wanted to be forgiving without reading more about the story of God’s forgiveness. I wanted to grow in my faith without reading the stories of the faithful who went before me.
I wanted to fast-forward the apple (or strawberry) and get straight to the good stuff—the authentic Christian life. Then a still, small voice whispered something in my heart: “Girl, it doesn’t work that way. Come on, let’s get your Bible and do this together.” I swear, that’s what I heard…verbatim.
I knew it was God who whispered that truth in my heart. So,
I got up at 5am the next morning, made some coffee, lit a candle, got cozy in in my fuzzy blanket I downloaded a Bible app on my phone, went to Starbucks at 10am, and took the boys to a park so I could try and read the first passage from the Bible study my friends and I were starting while they ran around in circles.
The process is the same for all of us—we all need to read our Bibles. The process is so personal to each of us—there was no way on this green earth I was waking up at o-dark-thirty and try to read anything, but I would wake up at 9am, download an app, and drive to a coffee shop. This was my beginning. I remember that day because it was the first day I read scripture on my own and it actually made sense to me. Progress. In obediently submitting myself to the process, I was inviting progress.
Fast forward 7-8 years—here we are. I’ve been in that process a while now. The progress has been amazing. I memorized Psalm 23. I’m working on memorizing all of Matthew 5-7 (Jesus’s sermon on the mount), and I can remember where a lot of things are without having to look them up. You guys, that is real progress for me, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s really about what God is preparing us for. It’s the progress I make in that process by the power of the Holy Spirit which prepares me for such a time as this.
Here’s what happened yesterday. A friend text me and asked if I could recommend a Bible study or a book because she is struggling with anxiety and is constantly comparing herself to others. Can I get a moment of silence for this text message? Do you see what happened here? That was me 7-8 years ago. Go ahead, pick your jaw up off the floor. I’ll wait.
If I had not followed the Holy Spirit’s leading and embraced getting started, I would not have been the type of woman who my friend would have text with that sort of question. I wouldn’t have been able to make a good recommendation even if she had asked me. I truly believe that. God prepared me to serve her yesterday by inviting me into a process all those years ago. Progress happens over time, you can’t rush it. It’s the daily grind which makes texts like that so sweet—it’s worth it.
Here’s what I have learned: if we skip the process, we forfeit the fruit. I’m not trying to leave any apples in the orchard of my life because that isn’t how God intended it. He gave each of us gifts and talents to use in the world for God’s glory and to love and serve our neighbor—that’s the fruit. When we bypass the process, we cannot make lasting progress, and our efforts are ineffective (at least long term). So take a survey of your orchard—what is missing? What areas have you been neglecting and how can you join (or rejoin) God in the process of progress? There are some juicy apples (or strawberries) in your future meant just for you—don’t rush the growth, savor it.