My wife and I have a coffee plant named Clarence. My mom gave him to us the week before our wedding. I remember thinking a tropical plant like Clarence couldn't survive in a climate like ours, but appreciated the gift.
Despite my skepticism, Clarence has enjoyed his Tennessean home and grown over twice his original height since he came to live with us. My wife and I high five every time a new leaf sprouts and dream about roasting our first cup of anniversary coffee in about three years.
Over the last few months, we didn't see any new leaves on Clarence. He just sat there, green as ever, soaking in water and sunlight. But I was anxious to see more growth. I wanted him to become the coffee plant I pictured in my mind. Meanwhile, I failed to notice how his stem had thickened.
When God takes me through periods of growth, I feel energized and want to write fifty posts on what I learn. Those periods may cause me discomfort, but I know God is at work.
When I don't see any change in my life for a long period of time, I worry about my lack of visible growth. Am I becoming lukewarm? Have I acted to casually about my faith? Do I listen to God enough? How much of my house is built on sand? And so on.
My life as a Christian has more angst than I'd like to admit. Looking at where I am in life, I can obsess over how I'm not where I want to be while overlooking how far God has brought me. I keep looking for new leaves without noticing the strength building in my roots and stem.
I feel I should tell you I know my righteousness doesn't depend on how well I behave. Hebrews 10:1-11 explains how all the sacrifices and religious rituals could never make a person righteous. Only the payment Jesus made by offering himself as a sacrifice made it possible for us to have lasting righteousness.
Then verse 14 says, "For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified."
In that sentence, I see a few things. First, Jesus does the real work. My role in that verse is passive. He has perfected. I am being sanctified. At most, I think my effort goes into responding to the work the Holy Spirit does in me. Second, I see that while I still go through a process of sanctification (that is, the act of being made holy), I am made perfect by Christ's perfect offering. I'm already holy while God makes me holy.
The last sentence may have sounded contradictory, but look at Clarence. He is a coffee plant, even though he's still becoming a plant that makes coffee. I might obsess over the change in his process of becoming a plant that will one day produce coffee, but he's already a coffee plant. I know in my head it will take years for him to make even the smallest batch of beans. In the meantime, his roots go deep.
I may not always have a thrilling story to tell people of what God's doing in my life. It's not all sprouting leaves. There are long periods of time where God works on my roots, my foundation, and reassuringly tells me "You're good. You're good."