The past few years have seen a slow, incremental evolution in my spiritual walk – so slow and so incremental, in fact, that I didn’t realize it was happening until it had already happened.
Three or four years ago, I asked God to really start working on me. I was unsatisfied with where I was at spiritually. I felt burnt-out. At the time, I longed to go back to a time that felt far richer in that vein: college. Life then had been replete with ministry opportunities and rich fellowship. I had been really involved and engaged in a bunch of different Bible studies and activities, had been a visible campus Christian leader, had a sense of mission. And so when I prayed for God to start working on me, I had this assumption that He’d take me back there: to this time of high engagement and productivity.
That’s not what happened.
The doors of ministry and opportunity did not fly open. The college era did not return in force. Ministries that we’d been engaged in ended one by one, for a variety of reasons. My husband and I even ended up switching churches during this time, overwhelmed by the sense that we didn’t belong in the congregation we’d attended for years.
But other things were changing, mostly inside me – so subtly that I didn’t put two and two together. At first, it seemed like a bunch of random events. I’ll share a few:
- I grew irritated with and convicted by the amount of time I frittered away on the Internet and mindless activities and cut those down.
- I started getting outside more.
- With all this new time on my hand, I returned to old and new beloved interests: crafting, reading, writing, photography.
- The interests became a ministry outlet. I started writing Bible studies and books, working on ministering to others through photography, and crafting small things to give to people.
- The joy and happiness I felt from all of the aforementioned things, plus the sense of more uncluttered time in my life, meant that I became aware of my tendency to resent or grow frustrated with the small acts of service that my life requires: making a bed, correcting a comma splice for the 3,745th time. I started reworking those things into a sort of “daily liturgy” of work for God.
Again, the important point is that I didn’t realize these things were lining up in this particular way, or that God was using them to slowly reshape my attitude and my character in delicate increments. And yet from my current perspective, I can see the arc of how He was drawing all these seemingly unrelated things together to shape me, all in answer to a prayer request ages ago.
I think that, as believers, it’s easy for us to misinterpret the potter metaphor. We tend to think of God just hammering away at that clay, or really getting in there up to His elbows to mold and remold and change things. And sometimes He does. But pottery and sculpture can also be delicate work: a nudge here, a slight shift there. The end product is refined in a way that isn’t always easy to detect, but that is also a sign of master craftsmanship.
I’m thankful for that. Because I have been growing, and I’d not noticed it because I had my eyes peeled for something bigger, better, more obvious. Odds are, you’re growing too even if you don’t feel like it – and probably in ways you don’t expect. Think back to where you were three or four years ago, and what’s changed, and you might stumble on answers that surprise you.
God’s work can be subtle, and no less profound for all that.