Walking through Sainsburys today, I passed some blokes mag that promised me ’18 day abs’, or some such thing. Now, I’ve never managed to have abs that last quite that long… I reckon in my youth I might have had them for about 18 seconds, following a sit-ups competition we had when I was about 9. But of course, that’s not what the mag was offering. I didn’t get as far as reading the mag, but I suspect there was a scheme in there somewhere to get abs in 18 days. There must have been some exclusion clauses. Like, you’d have the abs in 18 days, but it would take another 18 months for them actually to be visible beneath the layers of insulation.
But is it really fair? Is it really ok to expect abs in 18 days? If I’ve spent 35 years not trying particularly hard to develop fine abs, can I really turn things around in just 18 days? Is that a reasonable assumption, that abs are less than three weeks around the corner? Perhaps I should buy the mag…
But not surprisingly, I’m not just blogging about abs. This year, I’ve been following (at times, in a regrettably lax sense) Martin Saunders and Jamie Cutteridge’s blogging over at God52. They refer to it as ‘A year of challenges to draw you closer to God’. And a year seems a lot more reasonable than ’18 days of challenges to fix your faith (or your abs)’. Because some things just can’t be done immediately. Some things take graft and time and darn hard work. Sometimes patience is needed. Sometimes discipline is needed.
This week, Andy Murray won Wimbledon. Not something he achieved in 18 days. The British Lions won against the Aussies. Not just the result of 18 days effort. And as I speak, the Ashes are about to be battled over. The glory will not be decided on the basis of 18 short days. These people have dedicated themselves to their sport. It’s a life choice, not a hobby. They’ve met challenge after challenge after challenge. They’ve sacrificed again and again and again. They’ve lived disciplined lives.
And for Christians, it’s the same. Despite having written a book on spiritual disciplines, I know I’m still a long way off. I need to battle, I need to meet challenges, and I need to sacrifice. I may want it all now, but I won’t get it without a battle, I won’t get it without discipline. That’s why I was glad that God52’s latest two challenges have offered first an amnesty on completing a task that we’d missed in the first half of the year (trust me, I need more than one week’s amnesty!) and second an invitation to recommit to the task. God doesn’t invite us to a quick fix. He offers His grace and invites us to a lifetime of discovering it, living in it and responding to it.
What a fine challenge.