Thursday, December 29, 2016

When the Clock Strikes Midnight

Some days I feel like Cinderella.  No, I'm not dressed in rags, slaving away in the home of my wicked stepmother. And neither am I looking for a handsome prince (I've already found him).  No, it's something else, but to explain it, allow me to refresh your memory of the fairy tale.

Cinderella desperately wanted to go to the ball, but she had nothing to wear and no way to reach the castle.  In her darkest hour, her fairy godmother appeared and made her wishes come true.  With a flick of the wand, Cinderella's rags became a gorgeous ballgown, complete with glass slippers.  A nearby pumpkin became her coach, and a variety of animals served as her footmen and driver.  It seemed impossible yet magnificent; however, there was a catch--the fairy's spell would only last until midnight.

So, Cinderella goes to the ball and meets the prince.  They fall in love at once, and for a little while, Cinderella forgets her past.  As far as she's concerned, things have changed, and they'll never be the same again.  Everything was perfect, and her dreams had finally come true.  But, at the stroke of midnight, just as the godmother had warned, everything fell apart.  The gown was reduced to rags.  The coach broke down into a rotting pumpkin.  The footmen and driver regained their animal forms.  And Cinderella was left standing in the dust of shattered hopes and dreams.

This story resonates with me in that sometimes I feel like a significant transformation has taken place in me.  The timid, anxious, doubting girl is gone, and in her place stands a beautiful princess, complete with grace, poise and faith.  For a little while, it looks like my spiritual dreams have come true--not that I've arrived, mind you, but for once, I feel like I'm making progress.  For a while, it seems like my faith has finally taken root and begun to grow.  All those hours spent in prayer and Bible study are finally paying off.  The transformation is magnificent, and the changes seem so permanent that I fool myself into thinking that things will never be the same as they were.  The poor Cinderella is gone!

Ah, but then the clock strikes midnight.  Crisis comes.  Trials arrive.  And suddenly, everything around me crumbles.  My beautiful gown of faith is reduced to rags of worry and fear.  In an instant, it's as if nothing had ever changed at all, and I feel like I'm back where I started.  Never making progress.  Never moving forward.  Always stuck in one spiritual existence while longing for another.

Do you ever feel that way?  Do you find yourself doing all the right things for spiritual growth yet seeming to be stuck in your childish ways?  It's discouraging, isn't it?  The truth is, it's downright disheartening!  I find myself thinking, What's the point?  Why bother?  But, praise the Lord, God recently opened my eyes to a beautiful truth.

You see, I've had it in my mind that I've been failing the same test over and over and over again, which indicates a lack of spiritual growth.  But I don't think that's the case at all.  It's not that I'm not learning; it's that the tests are becoming more challenging.  When I started out, my faith tests were on the level of 2+2, but now, after some growth, the Lord feels I'm ready for something more challenging, like long division (yikes!).  It's a bit like playing a video game.  For the most part, games have levels. As you progress in the game, the levels get more and more difficult.  It doesn't mean you haven't learned anything or acquired skill at the game, it only means that you're facing more challenging obstacles.  Does that make sense?

For me, it's such a relief because it gives me hope that I'm not stuck in a spiritual rut.  I'm not a lost cause!  No, I haven't arrived, and I have MANY lessons left to learn, but fortunately, I have a very wise and patient Teacher.  He knows what I need and what lessons I need to learn, and He will give me the strength to master them in time.  And rest assured He will do the same for you.  We are making progress, imperfect though it may be.  But progress is progress.  Just ask Cinderella.  Though everything else in her fairy tale existence disappeared, her glass slippers remained, and it was through one of those slippers that her dreams became a reality.

Hold onto that glass slipper of imperfect progress and cling to it as your hope and promise that God is not through with you yet.

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. - James 1:2-4
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