In the Church, we talk a lot about breakthrough. Breakthrough is big. Breakthrough is dramatic. And breakthrough is instantaneous.
Breakthrough happened when Jesus’ disciples told a crippled man to get up and walk – and he did. In a moment, he went from being severely handicapped to frankly, athletic (scripture says he was “leaping”).*
Or when the apostle Paul was trekking along the road to Damascus, when allofasudden he – a Christian-hater by profession – saw Jesus. Allofasudden, Paul became one of history’s greatest Christian teachers and evangelists (Paul actually wrote most of the New Testament).**
Breakthrough of this nature – sudden, unexpected, unabashedly supernatural – happens, and it happens still. I’ve experienced it myself: “before and after” moments that I could look back on and know that God had changed me in mere minutes.
But lately, I’ve been experiencing a different sort of breakthrough. It’s the breakthrough that comes slow and steady. It’s produced by a God that can shake us to the core to change who we are in a moment – but who more often changes us gradually, clipping carefully away at us over days, weeks, months, years, even decades.
The truth is, what the Bible calls “pruning” (as in, a rose bush) isn’t usually very enjoyable – but it’s often the way He chooses to change us.*** It hurts. It’s frustrating. It requires patience, time. It can even be infuriating. But, it produces fruit (or roses).
And therein lies the breakthrough.
The evidence of this kind of breakthrough is measured in small moments and choices – in new responses and tweaked thought patterns. It’s measured in newfound strength, or character. It’s very often measured in peace.
This week, I took a quick trip to one of my favorite places in the world – Catalina Island – to work, rest, and spend some time with family. Catalina usually makes me feel reflective (sometimes unhealthily so) and in the past, the space and relaxed atmosphere here might have given me too much time to think about what’s “not going right” in my life.
But this time? This time is different. God has been instructing me to be present in the moment I’m in. Not to let my tendencies as a futurist sway me into worry. To look at what’s right ahead of me – for example, the next 12 hours – and be content.
This shift in perspective marks a breakthrough for me, but it didn’t come overnight.
In fact, I would say that this shift was nurtured over a decade-and-a-half of learning to let go of control, choose quiet trust in God, and not be so hard on myself. Much of this transformation came by God’s simple pruning, which often involved a) Surrendering my life to His control, and b) Me not getting what I want, right away at least.
The result? I find myself with a renewed mindset. Less anxiety. More perspective. More joy.
Leo Tolstoy said “The strongest of all warriors are these two: Time and patience.”
In my experience, the Russian novelist was certainly right. As much as we want instant gratification, it is often these two intangibles – wielded by God – that fight on our behalf, producing radical change in our hearts, longed-for transformation in our lives, and you guessed it, breakthrough.