Grace For The Young Traveler, Or There Is No Leap Frog

If Eugene Peterson were to re-remix his Message version of the Bible, surely he’d need to throw in the phrase “faith journey” a couple of times in the New Testament. Paul would also advise his listeners to “live in the tension,” but that’s another post about Christian trends.

Anyway, when you refer to your faith these days, it’s incomplete to simply call it that. It’s now a faith journey. And for good reason – faith is not a state of arrival but rather an extended trip that always has you moving – sometimes up, sometimes down, and sometimes backwards. Rarely are you still.

How played out is this metaphor?

I work (soon to be worked) with teenagers and young adults. I spend A LOT of time with them. And I have to admit one of the most difficult things to accept is that they are on an incredible journey in this part of their lives, and unfortunately that journey MUST include them testing the boundaries, reacting against what’s going on and rebellion. It is difficult to not get frustrated with them and to remember how essential it is they do these explorations and tests.

It’s so easy to lose patience, especially with people who are early on in the journey. Though this is most noticeable in youth – in spiritual terms you can see it at any age. They seem naive, reckless and they question everything. They push the limits just to see where they are and they’ll argue and debate until the cows are on your plate.

I know that for me, I just want them to “arrive” already. I get tired of the journey. The term journey implies a meandering, which implies this won’t be the most efficient process. We all know the “journey is the destination” but patience doesn’t grow on trees.

I wanted to make this point back during my unofficial “he’s a friend of sinners!” series – that we want to love people where we want them to be – not where they are. In other words we often imply we will love and accept you WHEN you arrive at this conclusion. Which means we could be waiting a while, and even further it means we don’t really love them.

Remember when churches would say “Hey you can wear blue jeans” and have big banners that read “come as you are”? That means God, and hopefully therefore his people, accept people where they are no matter what stage they are in, and they accept them no matter how long it may take, no matter how many wrong turns are taken and no matter if they don’t fall exactly in our understanding of the world.

So I don’t have a monumental point to all this, I simply think we could all use the reminder to give some grace to the travelers among you, for they will not always be where they are – they will move on. Not only that, but the only way for them to continue on in their journey is to first be where they are right then. There is no leap frog, there is not cutting in line – you only move forward by being where you are, even if only for a split second.

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15 Responses to Grace For The Young Traveler, Or There Is No Leap Frog

  1. Jeremy @ ConfessionsOfALegalist says:

    I heard a preacher say once that when we evaluate people we need to do it not based on where they are at, but where they have come from.

    Someone complained about people smoking in the parking lot. The pastor asked what they were smoking. The complainer replied “cigarettes, of course.” The pastor stated, “Great! This is a sign of sanctification in their lives.”

  2. It would appear that I’ve leapfrogged backward more than I’ve inched forward.

  3. Companions in the search, the journey. That’s what we all are. I’ve always appreciated the patient people who walk with me instead of trying to drag me along.
    It’s good work you do, and none of it will go to waste. :0)

  4. David says:

    It’s a good topic Charlie. I like what WED said – we are on the journey together.

    I see the journey as having two paths, one is God’s will, and the other is ours. Well it may not always be easy to know which is which, there is still only on will of God. I have a lot of grace for others, and little for myself in that regard.

    In terms of cutting someone else slack, it depends on what it is. If I see someone struggling that wants help, I am there. If I see someone struggling that doesn’t want help, I still let them know that I am available. I have kids like that.

    There are others on the journey that have chosen the way of arrogance, and pride. That is where I have the most trouble. How much grace do they get before I say, you know, you might just want to make a mess of that and call me when you are done. I have kids that have pulled that a few times. I am still there after the fact.

    The ones that I have the most trouble with are the ones that are in obvious error, not searching, but in error wrapped with a hard shell. I think the Pharisees were like that. I don’t have grace at those times; I want to flip over a few tables. It bothers me when the church is wrapped in a lot of stuff that isn’t biblically based. Why? Because I care about the church, and most of all I care about folks engaging a real God, not a religious liturgy (real God + liturgy is cool!).

    In the end I have grace for those that want to engage God, not make political and religious statements for personal gain. A guy like Rob Bell seems to be searching, more than pronouncing his knowledge – I am OK with that. (I am not saying I agree wit Him, but I have grace.) There are others who will remain nameless (even thought I still would like to slap them in Jesus’ name), that deny huge tracts of Scripture, and call themselves teachers; others that call themselves Christians, and some even sound like Bible, but they are purveyors of lies and half-truths. I don’t have grace for that.

    But it is really none of my business.

    Matthew 13:24-30 (NIV11) The Parable of the Weeds
    24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

    27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

    28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

    “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

    29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

  5. Carla says:

    Excellent reminder. I always liked when pastors point out that we can’t ask God for patience, it’s something we have to build ourselves, He may just provide you with opportunities for our patience to grow. Being patient with the “journey” of others is difficult.
    I used to work with kids in a Residential Treatment facility and I mentor some of them now that they are in their early 20s and on their own. It can be frustrating to watch them make bad decisions, especially after they came to me for advice first, and then ignored it. There are definitely seasons where I don’t respond to the drama because I already told them what I think. I still love them and I’m there for them, but I’m not necessarily going to feed into negative behavior. It’s difficult to discern when to give attention, and when to withhold. But having to wait out someone’s journey can be so rewarding when they finally “get it”.

    My biggest struggle is the people who have seemed to get it, have changed their lives and have made big strides in their journey. Just to throw it away and do a giant u-turn. This is where I get frustrated. I just want to show them a video of their lives 5 months prior and compare it to their current state. This, I think, is where its the most difficult to love them where they are at. Cause I’m so annoyed by them! This is where the Lord gives me opportunities to grow my patience, and my love, and helping me learn to bite my tongue. I know, cause I’ve failed in this area before. I try to remember that these people don’t need me and my rhetoric, they need Christ, and deep down they know that. It makes it easier to remain steadfast.

    Great topic!

    • I’ve never heard that – God doesn’t give us patience but merely opportunities to practice/grow. I like that.

      Working with kids is so eternally frustrating and that it’s difficult to remember they are on a journey and won’t forever be where they are, and at the same time they need to be where they are in order to move on. I can definitely list countless examples of when I got really annoyed…

  6. Larry Hughes says:

    Wel I don’t know how to react to this article. I have been wandering in a desert trying to find a direction. When I see what I think is progress, I find out I am lost on the wrong road and have to turn around and start over again.

    I have run into a few people that profess wanting salvation but fail to make the commitment either by choice or bad habits. The other possibility is I might not be as commited myself to them. If I would let God do the talking I might be better led my self.

    • though certainly finding Jesus is an urgent matter – not getting that commitment right now doesn’t mean it is all lost and we all know the twists and turns life takes. I’m sure we’ll all look back upon our lives and say “I never coulda guessed that…”

      I feel for you Larry. As I was saying in the post – it’s difficult to accept that where you are is crucial to where you will go.

  7. Chris says:

    It’s true, extending grace is important. So important in fact that it can sometimes seem as though perpetual silence would be the only sane or gracious option.
    I know a pastor that confided in me that he had a woman who had been recently attending his church who wrote him a note that said: “I am a lesbian. Is there any place in this church for me?”
    Imagine that. What would you say to this person who is at this stage of her journey? I don’t mean to imply that her lesbianism is just a “phase” or a point in her journey which she will move beyond. But how this pastor would respond I think would be crucial if she were to find the person of Christ attractive in any sense and just even begin her faith journey. The apostle Paul describes believers as “living letters”, just as many of the books, epistles, etc. of the bible were originally letters to either specific individuals or groups of people. Some people will never even care to read Matthew, Luke, Mark, or John, if they didn’t care for what they read in Chris.

  8. Pingback: The Good And The Bad News, Or This Ain’t No Game of Pin The Tail On The Donkey | Charlie's Church of Christ

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