Progressing Toward Something

By: Cynthia Butler

I used to like hanging out with the nerds: the SAT-acing, philosophizing, scientific minds of my generation (or at least my high-school). Maybe they were rubbing off on me. That would explain why I started using mathematical functions to describe my love life (or lack there of). I was sitting next to Eric in the bus one morning, talking about my big crush: Kevin. He was musical, cute, Christian, everything I was looking for, but we were still just friends.

“I think our relationship is like a hyperbola,” I said. “You know, that line that gets closer and closer to the edge of the graph, but never intersects it? That’s us; we just keep getting closer and closer, but we never touch.”

“A rational function?” He clarified. “If that’s true then you should be making less and less progress.” I thought about his answer as the bus bumped along. It was surprisingly encouraging. Kevin and I were not making less progress; our interactions were, in fact, accelerating. We were progressing toward something. Yes, it had to be true. Who but Eric could use math to cheer up a frustrated friend? In retrospect, the conversation seems almost prophetic, or like some obvious foreshadowing in a quirky chick flick. Soon Kevin would unexpectedly put his arm around me during the long ride to Mexico with our church. Soon we would be sitting next to each other on the cool concrete rim of a fountain pondering our future together. Soon I would be spending who knows how many pesos making a call from a hotel in San Luis Potosi telling my parents that I was practically engaged.

It’s kind of romantic looking back on the days of longing, before I knew how the story was going to end. That uncomfortable waiting period, that expectant feeling; sometimes I think I even miss it. But here I am, married to my soul mate, living what I had previously only dreamed of. And when I am playing the waiting game in other areas of my life, I would do well to remember to have faith.

For some reason, The God who is eternal decided to confine his created beings to the boundaries of time, like little one-dimensional lines traveling on two-dimensional graphs toward an unknown destiny, while the all-knowing one looks on us with his multi-dimensional eyes and gives us little clues along the way. We hunger for those clues from God, never realizing that the very desire we feel may be a clue in and of itself. And desire that turns into hope could be a glimpse of the future.

How many afternoons did my sister Alicia and I harmonize in the backyard imagining what it would be like to record and perform our songs for audiences? Then the childhood fantasy became a calling one day when Alicia felt God tell her, “You will be Christian singers.” And these clues from God were treasures to us through the years as a ministry was born. Still, after we were married and moved to separate towns, ministering together became difficult. At times, it seemed that the dream would die completely. Finally our hope was rejuvenated and opportunity presented itself, inspiring us to quit our jobs and set out with our husbands as musical missionaries. After years of carrying this vision, we entered a season of fulfillment.

Now there is a new hope that is taking form in me. For a long time I was afraid to want it. But I am ready to pursue what, at one time, seemed unattainable: to live like Jesus did. I’m not just talking about remembering the golden rule like your Sunday school teacher taught you with her felt board characters. I mean calling down the power of God, healing, performing miracles. If we really believe that God is a miracle-working God then why don’t we expect Him to do the impossible? And why don’t we expect to do the impossible through His power?

Let me stop myself before I preach. The point is, I want to see this happening in my life. And I’m finally believing that it can. But I’m not there yet. I still feel like I’m manufacturing confidence if I rebuke illness, like I’m trying on clothes that are too big for me. I memorize scriptures, and I quote them in prayer, but I don’t know that I’ve ever healed the sick or cast out a demon. I could become discouraged, wondering if anything will ever come of my efforts. But it’s not as if nothing is happening. What was once a distant dream is now a passion. And God is awakening me to miracles that are happening even now, positioning me to be taught by those who have experienced them. He is broadening my understanding of scriptures about healing, and He is answering my prayers, even if not all at once.

I remember standing in my room when I was a child, wishing I could be a teenager like the big kids I admired. Time passed slowly back then. I felt so frustrated that I began to cry. “I’ll never be a teenager,” I thought.

Of course, that day did come eventually. It was inevitable. And I suspect spiritual growth is inevitable too, as long as we remain connected to Christ. I need to trust this process. A child cannot see herself grow while she looks in the mirror, but it is constantly happening under her nose (even to her nose).

The apostle Paul encouraged us: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal. 6:9) So what can I do but continue on, celebrating each victory along the way, small though they may be. I will read the words of God and internalize them. I will trust them more than I trust my own perception. I will pray for what is humanly impossible. And I will believe that, whether or not I can see it happening, I am being “conformed to the likeness of [Jesus]” (Rom. 8:29)