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Sunday, July 28, 2019

Struggle and Progress


At my church, this year we are celebrating our 150thyear of ministry.  It is kind of fun, going back and reading all the old stories and looking at a lot of old pictures of those who went before.  People share some of their stories and find the photos often spark memories from days gone by.  

As part of the celebration, we are moving through history decade by decade with reminders of world and church events of the particular decade.  Today, the focus decade was the 1990’s.  

As I read over the list of events, I found striking the number of terrible things that occurred in that decade, the Rodney King trial and riots, World Trade Center bombing, Hurricane Andrew, Oklahoma City bombing, the bombing of the Olympics in Georgia, and the shooting at Columbine.  What a decade of tragedies!  And even as the words were coming out of my mouth, I thought of another tragic event of the 90’s, my own divorce in 1998.  

Now don’t get me wrong.  Life has moved on for me, and I have spent the last 15 years in a good marriage with a great wife, and I can look back and see how difficult it would have been for that first marriage to continue, let alone become a good and healthy relationship.  There remains some tidbits of fallout here and there, some of which still bring sorrow or difficulty, but by and large, life has moved on.  Still, 21 years out of divorce..that seems like such a really long time!  It’s amazing to think that there would be ANY fallout still around.  

My church has also been involved in helping with local flood relief, even after four months.  Many parts of our city have moved on, living their daily lives with little or no impact from the flooded rivers that impacted the area back in March. But this week we had a group of hard workers come from Kansas, North Dakota and Minnesota who worked hard to help some of the folks who haven’t yet been able to move on, because their homes are far from back to normal.  We met people struggling to move on, struggling to get back to where they were, struggling to feel safe once again, struggling to feel that someday things are going to be okay.  They have been waiting and waiting for something to happen, for authorization to make repairs, for enough money to purchase materials, waiting to get through all the hoops and waiting periods required to apply for FEMA help, and then to appeal when they are denied, and then to apply for SBA loans when they still are denied. 

They are tired, they are sad, they are discouraged.  Some of them wonder if things will ever get back to normal, if life will ever move past the disaster for them.

It seems to me, there are some significant parallels in these experiences.  Divorce, floods and other life change moments can hit us hard and leave us devastated and numb.  Forward progress can feel very slow, and the hurt and discouragement can run deep. But, over time, a new normal comes into existence.  It’s just that, it takes time, hard work, patience and perseverance.  

In the midst of the tediously slow progress, sometimes one is well advised to recognize and celebrate the little steps of progress that are made, even while facing a mountain of work ahead.  

A counselor friend of mine offered an insightful statement. She said, “a little progress is still progress.”  Sometimes we want things to get back to normal NOW, to accomplish everything NOW, for the hardship to end NOW.  But often, that simply isn’t very realistic. 

Sometimes, all we can accomplish NOW, is “a little progress.” And a little progress sometimes can count in a very big way.  

The work the visiting group did for flood victims wasn’t a lot, there are hundreds of homes still needing assistance.  But they DID make “a little progress” by making a difference for a few homes.  And that little bit of progress meant everything to the people who were helped. 

Maybe time doesn’t really ever heal ALL wounds.  And maybe it takes more than just time to make some progress.  But no matter how daunting the path ahead, it is always wise to recognize even a little progress when it is achieved, because life is lived only one day, one moment, one step at a time, remembering that in the end, the journey becomes a long, marvelous trip.

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