There’s this giant misconception that growth only comes with progress. As in progress that can be measured. Or seen.
More money. More stuff. A bigger this. A nicer that.
A longer job title. Fancy letters behind your name. A corner office.
That stuff isn’t bad. It’s good actually. It’s just a terrible indicator for progress.
It may feel like progress, but that doesn’t mean it is.
In fact, if you’re anything like me, you’ll use some of that stuff to cover up the stuff that actually needs to progress. 😉
I remember being 30 and getting a big promotion at my job. I never said it out loud, but you better believe I thought over and over “I’m the youngest Director in the building…”
Then a couple years later, in a new job, I basically got kicked to the curb and fired.
Or when Brooke and I led a small group at our church and I’d say, “yeah marriage has always come super easy for us….” as we’d help others through their marriage problems.
Then a few years later, in a new church, our marriage got tested beyond my wildest imagination.
I’m not certain what worldview you grew up with, but somewhere along the way, without anyone saying it out loud, this is the one I adopted:
Go to college. Get a good gig. Get married. Save some money. Get a better job. Save more money. Have some kids. Keep getting promoted and make more money. Don’t screw stuff up. Retire rich. Travel the world.
Again, great stuff. Not bad.
But once I tasted some of the so-called good life and climbed the proverbial ladder, I realized that some of the loneliest people in the world are at the top of that thing.
Looking down on the rest of us, sure. But not feeling very connected to much.
And it’s still not comfortable to me, but I’m also starting to see that the path forward, the one towards growth, health and wholeness, isn’t always straight.
A + B doesn’t always equal C.
Growth often looks like staggering, stammering and zig zagging more than a straight arrow up.
Sometimes, growth feels like humiliation. Or a dark season. Or a loss of something dear.
Sometimes, progress feels like loneliness. Or isolation. Or a season where nothing is “easy”.
We’ve been trained to think, at least here in America, that success is measured by status, income or power.
Again, all fine things. But don’t confuse those things with health.
Maybe progress is getting fired in order to realize you’re a workaholic and can’t separate your identity from your work.
Or maybe progress is getting caught in your secrets in order to save your marriage.
Or maybe progress is leaving something big to start something small.
Or maybe progress is leaving the crowds in order to not lose your family in them.
Or maybe progress is swimming to the bottom of the ocean to find yourself when you feel like you may drown on the way.
Or maybe that’s just my life.
One that at times hasn’t felt like a path forward, because it hasn’t fit the American dream. The one where the path forward is directly related to success.
But that doesn’t’ mean it’s not progress. Even if it doesn’t feel that way.