When I became a mother for the first time at the age of twenty-five, I was completely clueless about taking care of a baby. High school activities had taken priority over teenage babysitting. My beautiful daughter Kelley was the first baby I really ever had anything to do with. Diaper changing, feeding, burping, and bathing were all new territory. I was a mother who didn’t know how to mother.
By God’s mercy my sweet mother stayed with us two weeks to help. She gave me a crash course in mothering and even taught my husband a thing or two. But the day she left I stood on the porch holding Kelley, sobbing, and thinking, “What am I going to do now?” (In case you’re wondering, Kelley did survive. She is a happy, healthy young wife and mother.)
When Kelley was born I fully became a mother. You can’t be “sort of” a mother or halfway a mother. However, I had a lot to learn about how to act like a mother, how to fulfill that role. Three children and more than twenty-five years later, I’ve had lots of practice and lots of opportunities to make mistakes. Without a doubt I am a better mother now than I was that day I stood crying on my front porch. But I’m not perfect. I’m still learning how to be a mother.
My sanctification – spiritual growth – is the same. The first time I came to the cross of Christ many years ago, God the Father declared me to be holy. He exchanged my sin for Christ’s righteousness. From that moment on, I stand “positionally” holy before the throne of God. That’s why the Bible refers to all believers as “saints” (translated from the Greek word that means “holy”).
However, my character, attitudes, and actions were – and are still – far from the transcendent holiness of God. I was an “unholy saint.” Thus began a lifetime of “progressive” holiness, or sanctification, as God continually shapes me to be more and more like Jesus.
This ongoing, lifetime process toward holiness is what Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians 3:16-18:
But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
Over the years, God has refined me and worked on my character. I am more Christ-like today than I was two decades, or even a month, ago. But I still have a long way to go. By fits and starts and baby steps God is still making this saint holy.
What about you? Where are you in God’s saintly process? In what ways is God working on you today?