Celebrating Progress

I had a moment this weekend. I crossed a mile marker, albeit an unusual one. I was standing in my dark bathroom (it hurt my eyes too much to have the lights on), staring at the reading on a thermometer. I hit 100. For most people, this isn’t much of a fever and fevers are lame anyway. So what crazy person would be celebrating this? Me. Or anyone like me who hasn’t had a properly functioning immune system in years, or maybe ever and their body just isn’t able to rally enough of a defense against invaders to muster a fever. Until now. So while for most people that thermometer might have just said, “You have a crummy fever.” To me, it read, “You are making progress, big time.”

Progress, I’m not sure we give her the glory she’s due. We really like finish lines. And we are great to announce that we have taken on some new feat. But gritty, fight-it-out-in-the-day-to-day progress? I’m not sure we’re that into her. But we should be, because she’s the one that carries us to the finish line.

Maybe you joined a heap load of other folks in committing to some sort of growth or change in the New Year. At some point, you’ll stop and evaluate your success. Have you crossed the finish line as intended? But what about those checkpoints along the way, called progress? What if you never make it to the intended finish line or it takes two years instead of one…but you make progress. Wouldn’t that still be worthy of celebration?

The thing about progress is it’s uniquely ours. What’s progress for me, may well be standing still for you. That’s why if we compare our progress to that of others we’ll only end up defeated, discouraged and ready to quit. This journey is ours alone. Let’s own our progress and celebrate it. We often celebrate those struts across the finish line and we fully recognize that they were hard-fought and well-earned. But what about the progress along the way?

It turns out progress is often hard-fought and well-earned.

I’m typing this piece with my right eye patched. As we work to rid my body of Lyme, the Lyme gets very angry and puts up a fight. Right now, part of that fight means my eye is insanely sensitive to light and hurts like Hades 24/7.

Sometimes progress is hard-fought and well-earned.

And what about the pace of your progress? What if it’s not fast enough for others…or for you? Progress rarely happens as fast as we’d like. But are you following the course that’s been laid out before you? Are you doing your part and letting others do theirs? Then celebrate that!

The other cool thing about progress is that, like a snowball, it sometimes picks up speed and force over time. So your blood, sweat and tears for that tiny bit of movement, in the beginning, may well be multiplied the closer you get to the finish line.

We are often told to keep our eyes on the finish line, but the simple truth is that, often times, the finish line is just too far away. Instead, if we just run this mile, if we just give it all we’ve got until that next mile marker and then the next and the next and the next… We can celebrate so much progress along the way.

Chances are, whatever you are doing is pretty amazing. Others might not see it, might not fully understand but you know that this progress you are making has been hard-fought and well-earned and that’s worthy of celebration.

So celebrate my friend, all the way to the finish line. No matter how long it takes.

Superficial Success

I went on a trip recently where I couldn’t help but overhear much networking, business card exchanging, sales figure dropping and general success celebrating.

I’m pretty sure I could even smell it on the plane, the scent of perceived success. The bigger the sales territory the more of this cologne they wore. Did they win awards for their numbers? Pile on some more of that perfume. Buy a bigger house or better car because of those commission checks? Better add a couple of extra squirts for good measure.

My life looks much different than these people. I don’t spend my days traveling for work, trying to close the deal and feeling like “the man” when I do. Is this it? Is this what success looks like? Are there levels of success?

I have to be honest that there was a time in my life that I would have been right there with those folks. When closing investment deals and climbing corporate ladders absolutely would have signified success to me.

But something’s changed…

The closer I get to Jesus, the less and less my definition of success has anything to do with stuff, titles or positions and the more and more it has to do with a posture before the cross.

When I begin to evaluate success now, I think about things like: How well am I loving people? Am I stewarding myself and my resources well? Am I growing in Christ?

We are such a results-oriented society. We want them and we want them now. Measurable and favorable, malleable. But what if being successful means learning to leave the results up to God? What if success means trusting God more than you ever have before?

Maybe, like me, when one year ends and another begins, you reflect back on it. Was it a success? What do I want to improve upon in this next year? Each year I find that my definition becomes more and more simple. This year it looks like this: Was I obedient? Did I grow closer to God in the process? If so, it was a success.

What does success look like to you?