Life has always been a funny thing for me, for everyone really. It’s a series of ever-changing, ever-shifting series of events and craziness. A little over a year ago I graduated from UNCG with a degree in communication studies. I thought after that moment that life was going to be great. More time to focus on my writing and ministry pursuits, without having to go to class and have essays and finals to do. For some reason I thought opportunities would just be throwing themselves at me. “Joshua we would love to give you a full-time ministry position, oh, and we would love it if you could write children’s books and poetry as well!” These are the things my head would think about. Sounds pretty nice, right? The reality is, life is a constant work in progress. There are days that are really hard. Days that are filled with stress. Days that are filled with frustration that the plan isn’t going as expected. Life is a constant work in progress, but that’s a good thing. The challenges that we face each day, the ones where we are pushed to the limit, these are important. Being a work in progress allows us to refocus our minds and realize the power of working on ourselves.
Two things have happened over the past year, I have learned how vital it is that my relationship with God is first, and the second key is that I never want to be satisfied in complacency. It’s easy to get angsty about things not happening the way we would like it (totally commentary on me and my obvious angst over the past couple of months.), but God has really been working on my heart through it all. I know that the timing of things will come. I may not be employed in full-time ministry, but I am in full-time ministry. I may not have ample time to write books, children’s books, and poetry; but I still have this blog as a way to be creative. I may be busy, but this season of my life is preparing me for the blessings of new and upcoming seasons. The year is not yet over, each day I wake up with new breath in my lungs, and my story is in a daily work in progress.
Endurance builds character.
There was a moment in my high school career that I joined the Track and Field team. I did it mainly because my friend Grey had a crush on one of the girls, and he wanted me to be there with him since we were both inexperienced. I joined and got excited about it, until they decided that I could do both distance and sprints. Many runners will tell you that they get a rush when they run, calling it a “runners high,” I don’t have this at all. The last event of the season was there, I had enjoyed relay races with Grey and the other folks on my team, but then my coach told me that I should run the 800-meter race. She somehow convinced me, and I liked Coach Bell a lot, so I did it.
I wanted to die.
It didn’t help that before the race, a guy from another school threw up before due to nerves; it was so bad. I started running, and very quickly, I was in last place. I couldn’t make it, everyone was so much faster and completed the race, but I chose to keep running. I wish this story ended with me getting struck by lightning and I beat everyone at the last moment, but the reality was, everyone finished and they started another race. Yup, just me alone running not giving up. It was then when Coach Bell came up by me and cheered me on until I finished. I felt pretty bad walking back, but my teammates encouraged me to the fact that I finished the race. What I learned at that moment is that I have to focus on me, not in a prideful sense, but what my mission is to do. We are called to run the race set out for us (Hebrews 12:1-3), because there are many things in life that will be hard, temptations to face, and unknowns to conquer. When you run with endurance, keeping your eyes on Jesus, your character is built for the better.
Character prepares us for the calling.
I don’t know what you are specifically called to do. Maybe it’s to work with children and young people, maybe you are a people person and have a knack for sharing the gospel with ease, or maybe you prefer to empower others; in whatever it may be, you need strong character. Character is not something you can buy, you develop it through time. That story of my Track experience didn’t feel great in the moment, but it was a lesson for me on not giving up when things get tough. God used that hard moment to make me look at tougher moments in this same way. In our lives, often things that we fight through will prepare us for a bigger battle. Had we not gone through the first trial, we would have no faith during the harder trials. The book of James sums up this idea so well. James was the brother of Jesus, and his book is filled with powerful calls to action as we walk in our faith.
James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Endurance produces character and character prepares us for the calling; and in all of it, we must have a firm foundation in our faith of Jesus Christ.
My current season has had many ups and downs, and it can sometimes feel as if I’ll never be able to make it where I feel God is calling me. I need to remember that I am a work in progress. You are a work in progress. We will never reach the point where we have “made it,” we should always keep running into more of what God wants from us. We all need to remember that the endurance through our trials will produce strong character, and that strong character will make us so much more equipped for our calling. Life may not be going exactly to the way I would have planned it out, but the truth is, God is way smarter than me and has the best path in mind. I need to be okay with being a work in progress and remember the joys that I have in this season. I will not give up on the pursuit of being a pastor, and I will not give up my talent for writing; I will choose to be a work in progress, knowing that the endurance I am moving in is producing character that will prepare me for my calling.
Be a work in progress.
Have a story about your current “work in progress” life? I’d love to hear it! Tell me your story in the comments below and help others be encouraged by your story!