“I’m making progress” – a phrase generally someone doesn’t want to hear. You say the phrase when you’re trying to excuse yourself for why something is not complete. Or you might hear it when you ask your partner how your deteriorating relationship is going or when you ask your project partner how their work’s coming along. Especially in a rapidly moving society where progress is hidden and results are instantaneous, our society has morphed reality into a similar ideal where as a human being, you’re expected to produce results somewhat quickly. Hence, the phrase,”I’m making progress,” doesn’t really output anything to a viewer. Because who really cares if you’re making progress, if you’ve not yet produced anything meaningful. Progress is good, but after a while, we all recognize when this phrase is more of an excuse than a sign of improvement.
But in a setting where no one is perfect and flawed by some human characteristic, it seems all we can do is “make progress” – and not at all quickly, but quite slowly. Each day progress towards something until our ultimate death, when we run out of time to reach that “something.”
Let’s also consider the fact that progress means to move forward; so what does it mean to move forward when our living reality is built on flaws and failures? Is it about bypassing these struggles to move forward or more about mending our past to restore the present and later, future?
I think the first is not possible in the definition of progress because that’s just a pseudo-progress; you just think you’re moving forward when you’re held back. As much as you think you’ve overcome your greatest struggle, more will present itself and the past will present deep scars. I think the latter is also not possible humanly. There are things that have happened to us that we cannot forgive or forget – tragedies upon tragedies that we will forever hold.
So are we stuck in a sort of catch-22 of “I’m making progress” but really going nowhere? Possibly.
A few weeks ago, when I was in New York, Carl Lentz spoke about this concept of progress reality: because we “broke it,” the Holy Spirit came and serves as an Advocate to help reset our realities as a process of time and healing.
When Jesus left the world, He knew that we wouldn’t have the strength to find our way back to Him. (see John 14:26) And those in the faith how every catch-22 breaks and how restored our lives become. How the phrase “I’m making progress” becomes meaningful, even with setbacks and other tragedies because all we can ever do is make the smallest progress towards the Cross. And every setback is not overcome by our doing, but by His, His overwhelming and all consuming love.
So yes, we’re all making progress in this living reality but we’re not completely alone in our endeavour to reach the highest.