Throughout our lives, we encounter situations and opportunities that have potential to open new doors for our future. Sometimes, it’s very clear that God is opening a door; other times, we simply have a sense in our heart. There’s often an accompanying feeling of excitement and positive anticipation that calls us to advance into unfamiliar territory.
In my work as a missionary volunteer, it is important to me that I am “bearing fruit” and getting things done in spreading the gospel. But just like when one plants a pear tree and it takes four to six years before it produces fruit,1 sometimes I don’t see the fruit of my work right away, and that can get discouraging.
Hearing the crunch of metal against metal as I backed out of my parking spot almost made my heart stop. I was in a hurry and had quickly scanned the parking lot before climbing behind the wheel, but somehow I had overlooked a pick-up that was parked in an unusual place.
I was recently fascinated to read how scientists learned how to make more effective waterproof products such as raincoats and airplane parts by studying the ridges on butterfly wings. It struck me that I also could learn something from nature, and I began researching fruit trees.
A couple of years ago, I started running for exercise, and I’ve tried to be consistent with it. I quickly built up to longer distances and durations than when I started, but then I hit a plateau and stayed there for a year or more. I found it difficult to increase my endurance beyond a certain point, and I found it particularly difficult to increase my speed.
On a rare day that I actually had a bit of time to do some organizing, I came to a realization about myself (not the most impressive one): I have a lot of “unfinished business,” at least to do with personal projects. When I receive work with a deadline, I strive to accomplish that in a timely fashion. Because someone is counting on me, I don’t want to disappoint them by being tardy.
Many of God’s promises are conditional, requiring some initial action on our part. Once we begin to obey, He will begin to bless us. Great things were promised to Abraham, but not one of them could have been obtained had he waited in Chaldea. He had to leave his home, friends, and country, travel unfamiliar paths, and press on in unwavering obedience in order to receive the promises. The ten lepers Jesus healed were told to show themselves to the priest, and “as they went, they were cleansed.” If they had waited to see the cleansing come to their bodies before leaving, they would never have seen it. God was waiting to heal them, and the moment their faith began to work, the blessing came.
The end of a year is a good time to take stock of things, a chance for us to reflect on all that has happened over the last twelve months. It can be a bittersweet time, as there are experiences and people that have moved into our past.
It is not my ability, but my response to God’s ability, that counts.
—Corrie ten Boom (1892–1983)
Alas for those who never sing, but die with all their music in them.
—Wendell Holmes (1809–1894)
To one degree or another, just about all of us are unsatisfied with ourselves and our circumstances—and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A certain amount of dissatisfaction is necessary if we’re ever going to make progress. To become all that we can be, we must dream of being more than we are. The problem is, too many of us stop there, in the dream stage. Why do you suppose that is?