‘I Thought I’d Be Further Along by Now’

An excerpt on risk, worship, and spiritual growth from The Expectation Gap: The Tiny, Vast Space between Our Beliefs and Experience of God.

We often think we should be further along in our life of faith than we actually are. This tendency is connected to how we read the Bible, how we compare ourselves to others, and then how we reinforce these dynamics in our faithcommunities.

I want to point out upfront that it is quite possible that we should be further along. I am not suggesting that we get lazy and stop worrying about spiritual growth. I am proposing that our attempted solutions to this gap are the fundamental problem. The gap may be real, but our solutions are often fruitless.

Many of us spend too much spiritual energy—and, frankly, guilt—trying to be something God did not ask us to be. We then spread that expectation around our faith communities and perpetuate the cycle. If we can notice the attempted solutions, and therefore the stuck cycle we are in, and get off that treadmill, we can open our souls to an encounter with God that can cause growth.

Let’s start by looking at the way we relate to the Bible. We each bring many assumptions to our reading of Scripture. We project our assumptions onto the page and read those assumptions back from the page, thus reinforcing our stuck patterns. Assumptions are always easier to see in others than in ourselves, and when we’re confronted by our own assumptions, it can be arresting or even threatening at first. When we look at the dynamics between Jesus and the Pharisees, much of their hostility was because Jesus was rummaging around in their assumptions, threatening what they thought they knew about Scripture.

We could explore many assumptions related to our reading of Scripture, but I want to focus on those that relate to the spiritual progress we’ve made in our …

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