Remember what it was like to drive a manual (stick shift) transmission for the first time? I was like many others; the car jerked and stalled, then I overcompensated and revved the engine too high. Finally, after a while, I got started, then into second gear. Finding the gear, I lost all momentum, and then dropped back down to first as the car lurched because I didn’t match the speed to the gear. Then starting over, getting through first into second, hitting third, now driving seemed normal and I was off – so it seemed, until I discovered that starting on a hill added a new level of challenge: the car rolled backward and I had to find the sticking point of the clutch to get the car started while not stalling it! After years now, the manual transmission is second nature really; I only notice when I’m in traffic. I even find myself bored and reaching for levers when I drive an automatic, and the ever-popular mistaking the brake for a clutch.
In life we see as we get older the challenges at first are quite big. The pressure of getting the stick shift mastered, while not breaking any speed laws or making mistakes, was quite the challenge. Then, you got comfortable and drove a stick while drinking coffee, listening to the radio, talking on the cell phone… the challenge became your new normal and you adapted. We see the same pattern develop in our walk with God. We respond out of love to some of the biggest challenges and think they are too much, then with time, they become the new normal and we realize we’ve grown. Growth is the one aspect of the human experience that people can control that people struggle with the most, due to its nature. Growing is change; to change we leave the familiar, and to leave the familiar hurts. Yet in time, the change is the new normal.
Lamentations 3:16He has broken my teeth with gravel; he has trampled me in the dust. 17 I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. 18 So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.” 19 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.
28 Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him. 29 Let him bury his face in the dust— there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace. 31 For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. 32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. 33 For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.
The new level of growth is birthed through the day-to-day struggles that bring life, hope and depth to you. We learned to drive a stick for the freedom of driving. Today being able to drive a stick is kind of like a badge of honor. A lost art that says, “I’ve taken the time and struggle to learn.” To many, it’s not worth the struggle; just buy an automatic. The truth is you can drive an automatic if you know how to drive a stick, you can’t drive a stick if you know how to drive an automatic. The struggles we face as we go through them give us the tools, grace, knowledge and patience to deal with the next one to come. The automatic transmission of our faith is simple complacency. It lulls us into a sense of “I’ve done enough, been through enough, and seen enough”- perhaps you have. The goal as it says in this passage: it is not what you have been through; it is what is at the end. It’s hope and God’s presence- that, my friend, is worth it.