I’ve just finished reading Paul Harcourt’s fab book “Discipleship in Circles”, really worth reading if you’ve not read it.
His idea is that our spiritual growth is rarely liner, starting on one line and moving in a straight-line towards Spiritual maturity, but rather our spiritual journeys -and our life journeys are more circular, encountering the same thing -or the same season- again and again.
Yet when I first saw the title I wondered if it was more about running around in circles, chasing your tail, getting caught in the same patterns again and again. The same struggles with same sins, people and problems.
Sometimes it has felt like my spiritual life is like a hamster on a wheel, not progressing in the freedom that I want to be in.
When I read Romans 7, where Paul himself talks about his internal battle between the old man and the new man in Christ, where the good he wants to do he fails to do, whilst the sin he really wants to avoid he ends up falling into.
This is Paul.
We all at times struggle, and find seasons catching us again and again where we ask ourselves “Why haven’t I learned this lesson?” or “why haven’t I cracked this problem?”
So often our Churches are full of pep talks and victorious living, and yet the reality in most of our lives it feels far from this.
Yet I do believe that Jesus breaks cycles of sin and struggle.
Paul continues in this vein over the next two chapters of Romans about how Christ rescues us, sets us free, gives us a new identity and fills is with his spirit.
Sometimes we have some form of supernatural deliverance, where we really feel Christ has stepped into our struggles and cut the rope or broke the chains.
Other times, we slowly over time realise that we are not actually in a circle, but a cycle, learning on each time around, and our cycles lift us slowly from our sin in spirals.
God works both supernaturally, and naturally.
God works both in the dramatic and the dreary.
We can trust him that he wants us to be free, he knows of what we are made, and his grace is enough for us.
If God doesn’t set us free instantly and dramatically, but rather allows us to go through a cycle again (and maybe again and again) we learn, grow and deepen our faith as we go through our spiritual journey with Christ.
Too often we think of Spiritual maturity as a destination, especially when we have a linear picture of discipleship, but rather it is allow God to shape us, mould us and develop us during the journey.
So, even when progress feels slow, sin feels entangling, run into the arms of Christ and go through each circle, however many times, with him holding your hand. As journey reveals our need of him and our brokenness we will discover afresh his faithfulness, love, grace and mercy.
The journey, not just the destination, matters to God.
Discipleship is not a certificate of maturity but a life long on going battle and struggle to become more and more like Jesus,
He goes through the circles, cycles and spirals with us.