We often think of growth as straightforward and linear. Once we make a decision we generally expect things to continue flowing smoothly in this same direction. But the path of growth is often messy – with many slips and falls along the way.
It’s easy to see this with a young kid learning to walk. While he has made an internal commitment, this is far from a once and done decision. After a step or two, he reverts back to crawling before trying a few more steps. This is a back and forth process that takes time. But his growth is measured over time and not in an isolated moment. To be sure, a moment of crawling doesn’t indicate a regression when his overall trend has been toward walking. And this is often true for our journey as well.
Perhaps we’re trying to eliminate certain vices, be more intentional in our practice of love, or simply be consistent with our diet, exercise, money habits and the like. Whatever it looks like, we’ve made an internal commitment to change. But our journey forward is rarely as straightforward and clean as we might like, as it’s filled with many good days as well as bad.
But we must not assume our bad days put us back at ground zero – as if we’ve covered no ground. Like the kid learning to walk, our growth also tends to be a back and forth process best judged over time and not solely from an isolated incident.
This is not an excuse or to otherwise dismiss the pain and hurt still caused when we miss the mark. But it is a reminder to offer ourselves grace and to not let shame take us out just because our path is not as clean-cut as we might like.
In the end, keep pressing toward the mark and measuring your growth over time, not by the messy bumps in the road along the way.