Incremental Change


The other day I was in the garage working on a new coffee table for my wife. We’re taking some old board that used to be under the church she grew up in. These boards are from the 1870’s, and were used basically as floor joists. They were not cut straight, they had some rot to them, definitely had a lot of cut marks on them, and a good layer of dirt. They were not the boards that most people would pick up to start a project to build something with that will be in the center of your living room.

I started the process of getting them to be usable. First, I needed to get them to the same thickness so they would lay flat. I ran them through the plainer, taking just a couple of millimeters off at a time (roughly 1/16th inch). Some of the boards had to have over an inch (~2 centimeters or ~20 milimeters) taken off. Then I had to trim up the boards so they were straight on all sides. I cut off some of the rough parts, some of the damage/rotting. Some of the scrapes and nicks, or nail holes were left because it gave character and added the beauty of the wood.

As I was planning the boards and trimming them, I was doing it in layers or small changes to the board. In a few cases, if I would have chopped off one end of the board I would have lost some of the grain pattern that makes the wood look good. In other cases, if I wouldn’t have chopped some of the wood off, the table wouldn’t be structurally sound as there was rot in the board. What has taken me several days to do, I could have done in a couple of hours, but the end results or change would not be as good.

This got me to thinking about something we had discussed in our small group at church the other night. Many times we look at our flaws and we want to make huge changes, drastic changes. We say things like we want to change who we are as a person, change our character. Then God says something to us like, work on your thought life, or work on what comes out of our mouth, or how you treat friends/spouse. God tells us to work on something specific.

There is a reason most New Years resolutions fail. They are usually too big of goals. If you’ve taken the Dave Ramsey class about getting out of debt, he always says to start with the smallest debt you have first. Naturally, you think you should pay off the biggest debt or the one that has the highest interest rate, but he says the smallest debt then move to the next smallest. Why, because there is a better success rate of people getting out of debt when they work from the smallest to greatest debt instead of the other way around.

God knows us better than anyone and knows our nature. We’re no different, if we go for the big changes, more than likely we will fail because we don’t see any success.

Also, God made who we are, our personalities, humor, emotions, etc. Yes, they are flawed through sin, but if we made drastic changes we could actually change who we are and take the beauty away of who God created us to be. Just as when I’m planning some boards, and I go too deep in taking a layer of the wood off, I could take out the worm wood or the nail holes; but then I’ve taken away the beauty and character of the wood.

This is a good video that I’ve seen that talks about this, check it out.

Could God fix us in the snap of a finger, absolutely. But God uses our road of change and our progress of becoming more like Him to reach other people. Yes, people have dramatic changes in their life thorugh God, but even they then go through gradual change to become more like God. God wants to use our road of growth to show His Glory and to reach people for Christ. During our path through life become more like Jesus, we will go through growth spurts, we will have failures, we will have to put the pieces back together, we will have people come into our life, and we will have people go out of our life. God will work on different aspects of our life, some with growth and some with removing the bad parts. Just as I could have fixed the boards to usable in a matter of hours, God could fix us in a split second, but their would be no relationship built with God and our story to show what God has been doing in our life would not be as powerful.

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