When it comes to vacationing with small children, my wife and I agree: sometimes you feel like you’re surviving moreso than having fun. We just got back from a 2000 mile-ish round trip; there were times when even surviving was in question. OK, I’m exaggerating. But this is no exaggeration: At one point during the away trip, I asked my wife if she has days that are nothing but one character failure after another. Not an over-analyzer, she just shrugged. I’d had a day’s worth of growling, barking, and frothing at the mouth, all by noon. Then there was the return trip. One day, I sulked in my shell like a turtle, only coming out to snap and bite people’s heads off. By the end of that day, I asked my wife if she was tired of me because I was tired of me. With characteristic grace, she just said she loved me.
That night, I dragged myself into the Lord’s presence on my belly. Was I changing or had I changed at all? I was supposed to be conforming to the image of Christ, becoming more like Him, going somewhere. Instead, I was spinning my wheels, kicking up lots of dirty flesh. Yuck. But as I prayed some things came to mind: His power is perfected in weakness. Sin dwells in our members. That which is flesh, is flesh (2 Cor. 12:9; Rom. 7:20-23; John 3:6). My idea was that I was getting better and better, eating up the highway of holiness as I rode from glory to glory. But these verses said limitation and failure would be my traveling companions. What then? What does conforming to the image of Christ look like? This was the question I put to the Lord.
He reminded me of Abraham and Sarah. God promised they’d have a son. At almost 100 years old, Abraham knew he had one foot in the grave. And Sarah had one womb in the tomb (Rom. 4:19). She wasn’t able to have kids in her prime. How could she now? God pointed out to me that Abraham and Sarah didn’t change once she was pregnant with Isaac. They were still as good as dead. They were still who they were. The new life growing inside was the only difference; it was the change.
This was a new way to look at conforming to Christ’s image. Not me getting better, not me attaining to sinless perfection but Christ growing inside. Christ increasing in me who remains as good as dead; me failing and being weak, Christ in me being the hope of glory (Col. 1:27).
Christianity is no vacation. For God, it has been a 2000 year road trip with children asking, “Are we there yet?” We are there: in Him. And He is in us (John 17:21).