When I was 12 years old, I wanted to build a car to race in a soapbox derby. My dad sat down with me and gave me this choice: “You can do it to have fun or you can do it to win. If you want to do it to win, here’s what it’s going to take….” And he laid out the hours of hard work, the commitment. “I’m here to help you, but you’re the one who’s going to do it. And you’re going to keep redoing it until it’s right. And you’re not going to quit.”
Because of that strong, go or no-go discussion, I deeply committed to the process. I stayed with it through 12 hour days of standing in the heat of the garage, of working on it while the other boys were playing. There were times I didn’t like it, and if I hadn’t made that clear commitment I would have given up. I needed the encouragement of my dad, but ultimately I stuck with it because of the commitment I had made to the process.
We’re always looking for the quick fix, the easy answer, but it just doesn’t exist. It’s not that way in life or in ministry. There is no quick fix. We’re in a marathon, not a sprint. I think that’s why Jesus told us to count the cost. I’ve told this same story of the soapbox derby in the recovery home I work in. It gives people the freedom to opt out unless they’re really serious. If they’re in, they commit and we’ll keep them accountable. If they’re out, they have that freedom—it’s not what they signed up for.
Your words resonate with the words of the book “Renovation of the Heart” by Dallas Willard. I am reading this book with three friends as we discuss spiritual formation. You and Willard are both reminding me that spiritual formation, social justice, and making disciples are all long-distance races.
Philippians 3:13-14 says, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)