Those of you living in Florida, California, Georgia, or anywhere with palm trees or cactuses may not be able to relate to the following. I spent the better part of two hours this morning shoveling snow. It wasn’t the Christmas movie kind of snow either, with the fat snowflakes falling gently, peppering the landscape with pristine white. It was half sleet, half snow, heavy, and wet, and each shovelful felt like I was tossing a three-month-old piglet.
No matter, I enjoyed every moment of it, as I do every time it snows here in Wisconsin, and I have to be outside by the break of dawn, shovel in hand so that the kids can get off to school on time. I find shoveling snow oddly therapeutic, in large part, because there is tangible evidence of progress.
You start the morning with a blanket of white a few inches deep, you put hand to shovel, and you begin to work. With each shovelful, you can track the progress that you’ve made; you can see the path that you cleared, the snow that you moved. You see the result of the work of your hands in real-time. You don’t have to wait six months for a crop like farmers do, or six years to lose that fifteen pounds you’ve been meaning to lose, it’s immediate, and the immediacy of it is oddly gratifying to me.
Before the e-mails start rolling in, I know I could take the easy way out and buy a snowblower, but I refuse to do it partly because I enjoy seeing the slow and steady clearing off of my driveway, but also because it’s forced exercise, something I don’t get nearly enough of especially in the winter months.
It also allows me to think, to meditate and to ponder, without the kids jumping on my lap, or insisting that we play hide and seek for the fifteenth time in as many minutes.
About an hour in, having worked up a good sweat, I looked back on the progress I’d made, and it was undeniable. That’s when I had this quasi epiphany of sorts, standing there leaning against my shovel. Our Christian walk is a lot like shoveling snow. You begin with your first step, your first day, your first shovelful, but if you are growing in Christ, if you are being perfected, if God is pruning and cleaning, the progress will be undeniable.
If your spiritual maturity is the same today as it was five years ago, then all you’ve been doing is spinning your wheels in the same place. If your understanding of scripture, of Christ, of grace, of holiness, of warfare, of the spiritual realm, and of yourself are the same today as they were when you first started out, you have not progressed, you have not matured, you have not grown, and though you might insist on the contrary, the evidence refutes your claims.
If I spent two hours outside this morning, came in with a big smile and declared that I was done shoveling the driveway, but when my wife peeked out the window the driveway was covered with snow as it had been when I first stepped outside, my wife would have some questions, and rightly so.
The amazing thing about growing in Christ is that you can track your progress. You can look back on the last few weeks, months or years, and see how you have decreased and He has increased. If it is not so then, you may consider this a reality check.
There’s one other thought that came to me as I was gauging my progress this morning. Sometimes when it snows, it is light and fluffy, and the process of clearing my driveway is almost effortless. Then you get the kind of snow we had last night, and by the time you’re done, everything’s aching, and all you want to do is lay down and take a nap.
Sometimes the road is easy, at other times, it’s a hard climb, but whether burdensome or light, you must press on because giving up is not an option. You’ll never reach your destination if you pitch your tent at the first rest stop you come across.
Your journey had a beginning, and it must have an end. Your destination is well determined, well defined, and you know the direction you ought to be traveling in. Set your eyes firmly upon Him, and let nothing deter you from putting one foot in front of another. It’s the only way you, or I, or anyone else will hear those blessed words, well done!