This post is for those of us who've thought, "When I get serious about spiritual growth, it seems like I just stumble more often. I'm taking one step forward, two steps backward!"
It feels discouraging, but there's good news for you. John Ortberg shares the news in this excerpt from The Me I Want to Be: Becoming God's Best Version of You. -Adam Forrest, Zondervan
Experts in the learning field sometimes talk about the J-curve, a graph measuring performance, in which someone initially does worse before they start improving. Their progress looks like a letter "J" when graphed, with an initial dip before things head upward.
The J-curve is normal: We do worse for a season before we do better.
If you have been hitting tennis backhands the wrong way, when someone teaches you the correct grip, proper form, and right footwork, when you begin to try to hit them the right way — you will actually hit them worse than when you were trying the wrong way! If you stick with it, however, eventually your backhand will be far better than before. But you have to accept that at first it will be worse.
When the disciple Peter first exercised enough faith to get out of the boat, he sank and looked worse than any of the other disciples. When he tried to defend Jesus, he cut off a man's ear. When he promised to be loyal, he fell flat on his faith. When he tried to advise Jesus, he was a devil's advocate.
Jesus was so patient with his disciples that we might think of the J-curve as the Jesus-curve.
Eventually, though, Peter's faith and boldness and loyalty and wisdom enabled him to become a leader of the church. But he got worse before he got better. Notice that this did not surprise or discourage Jesus. In fact, Jesus was so patient with his disciples that we might think of the J-curve as the Jesus-curve. He will never stop helping a follower of his who is sincerely seeking to grow.
Jesus will always lead us toward growth, and growth always requires risk, and risk always means failure. So Jesus is always leading us into failure. But he never gives up on a student just because he or she fails.
If you haven't been confronting when you should and you begin, you will do it badly at first. If you have rarely encouraged people, your initial attempts may be clumsy. If you have never shared your faith with someone, the first time you do it you may stumble all over yourself.
Go ahead and stumble. Failure isn't falling down; failure is refusing to try. We ought to celebrate failure. We are living on the J-curve.
Q: Am I harder on myself than Jesus is?
(Some styling above is a web-exclusive feature not included in the text of The Me I Want to Be. J-curve image from TMIWTB. This post does not represent the views of Zondervan or any of its representatives. The writer's personal opinions are shared only for information purposes. To receive new Zondervan Blog posts in your reader or email inbox, subscribe to Zondervan Blog.)