Step by Step

I am a  computer programmer. I tend to be a person who likes steps. What I mean by this is that I like to have a concrete explanation on how to do something. Just ask my wife. I literally follow the instructions on how to make macaroni and cheese, even worse I follow the instructions on how to make instant oatmeal! I follow the instructions to the letter: measuring the water, making sure my bowl is microwave safe, and using the exact time the instructions say to microwave the oatmeal! I always microwave our kids bottles for exactly 35 seconds, I don’t like to guess, I like steps and exact processes.

My wife is very unlike me in this way: she is a wonderful cook and never measures exactly, she measures to taste, she cooks things (and microwaves them) until she thinks they are hot enough. Sometimes this goes bad for her: she leaves a bottle in the microwave for 3 minutes or adds too much of something to a recipe rendering it sub-par (by her standards; i almost always still think it is delicious!). Other times she is able to vastly improve on what the recipes calls for, making her food taste greatly superior to the exact product of the recipe. She learns new things because she is willing to try new things. Following instructions and doing what you know works can make things simpler but never more diverse, or interesting, or better, or improved, or anything … it will always be the same never moving back, but never moving forward.

I would like to treat my faith this way: following the right steps to get the expected result. Sadly relationships do not work that way. You can’t treat all people the same way and get the same result, and more importantly you can’t follow a set of steps to be close to God. Following steps shows a disconnect between you and what you are doing: you don’t really know why you are doing it, just that if you do these things then the expected result will happen. What will happen if you are asked to make a change: you will be flabbergasted. My wife is a great cook because she is connected with what she is cooking, she understands why she is doing the things she is doing and is therefore able to change those steps to make things come out better.

To grow closer to God we must seek to know him, to connect with Him. We can follow religious steps but never connect with God: Jesus calls this being a white-washed tomb. I want to be more than a white-washed tomb. I don’t simply want to follow steps to look like a good Christian; I want to know God and connect with Him. When he asks me to change I don’t want to be flabbergasted.

How often do we think that doing this or that will “work” when it comes to our faith? How often do we seek to know God, to connect with Him and to go the way he has called us in spite of our fears of the unknown?

For me the answer to the last question is “not nearly enough, but hopefully more and more as he changes me.”

Note: The followup to this post is Things and Reasons.

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About Dan Allen

Just some guy trying to figure stuff out... View all posts by Dan Allen

14 responses to “Step by Step

  • Fred

    Trying to do things step by step is something I’m having to unlearn in my walk with Jesus. In our gatherings, we’re a bit more free form than what I grew up with, so I’m learning to let the Spirit work and not be so concerned with following a set of steps.

  • norma hill

    Just thinking that “doing things step by step” is a me-in-charge-my-works thing, while “walking step-by-step” is learning to tune in to the Spirit and become part of God’s work…

  • Dan Allen

    Fred,

    I find it difficult as well. I don’t know if I can blame my upbringing, or just my personality but whatever it is I am trying to “let the Spirit work and not be so concerned with following a set of steps.” Thanks for your thoughts!

    Norma,

    I like that you point out the fact that “doing things step-by-step” demonstrates that you want to be in charge, instead of trusting God to be in charge as you would if you were “walking step-by-step” with Him. I like that parallel structure!

    -Dan

  • Mark

    Norma I like your comparison as well!

    Dan,

    I imagine you and I are much alike. I am the classic over-thinker. I have to get it done, by the book, exactly right, or it isn’t good enough, and I’m just now learning to not be so obsessive!

    “How often do we seek to know God, to connect with Him and to go the way he has called us in spite of our fears of the unknown?”

    to me this question gets to the heart of what separates my life now from my life before. I now live my life to do what he instructs, although I am sure I fail plenty. Multiple times He has led me in directions that I would’ve never gone without His leading, and had to stand firm in my faith while doing it, only to see my walk and my faith take a stride forward in the process. I think its the willingness to listen and obey that separates those that are running the race from those that are not.

  • Dan Allen

    Mark,

    I also over-think and over-analyze everything! The thing that I have been learning though is that when I do this it may be “Exactly right” but often times it is not nearly as good as it could be. That is why I lost 60 pounds when I was single and eating my own cooking and have gained that back, plus some, since my wife started cooking for me! Her willingness to think beyond the steps of the recipe makes her food exquisite!

    I like what you said in the last part of your comment: “I think its the willingness to listen and obey that separates those that are running the race from those that are not.” Like you said we fail all the time, but if we just follow religious steps and ignore God we will always fail. The willingness to be lead by Him is crucial.

  • Anthony Verderame

    The beauty of our walk with & life in Jesus is that it is based on faith, and “without faith it is impossible to please Him.” The law always says, “Follow these prescribed steps & you will be ‘right’ with God and grow.” Grace says……believe and rest!!! That’s the beauty of the body of Christ. It is HIS body & it therefore functions & is manifested through the DIFFERENCES our relationships. We are sooooo different by design so that HIS love….His grace……His forgiveness…….His patience…..etc, etc., etc., is lived out BY HIM through US! WOW!!! That is why I truly believe the rough spots/tensions/riffs whatever you want to describe it as are allowed by God so that HIS grace increases all the more. “By Him…..through Him…..to Him are all things!”

  • Mark

    Isn’t it sad/ironic how hard it is to just rest, like Hebrews 3 and 4 talks about? The tandem of faith and grace is recurrent, as I guess it takes faith to walk in grace?

  • Dan Allen

    Anthony,

    I totally agree with what you are saying, I think our struggle boils down to the fact that we don’t really trust God enough, if we did we wouldn’t be so quick to take control, to try and do the right things, we would simply, as you say, rest, and let God be in control, following his direction instead of trying to plow our own way through (which never works out, right?) Unless God builds the house those who labor labor in vain.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    -Dan

  • Jason

    It is scary how much you and I and Stephanie and Erika are alike (at least related to your illustration above). Same scenarios happen regularly at our house. Just two other thoughts (because I over analyze things, and like to argue (although not as bad as Lew).

    I do believe that God has given normal means to grace in order for us to pursue Him through. And I do believe it is OK at times to keep “going through the motions” during seasons of spiritual drought, knowing that once again we will drink from the living water afresh soon. The Lord will work through His prescribed means.

    Secondly, I feel like the teaching of scripture is that God knows and evaluates things by the heart and desires. He knows whether or not we are “going through the motions” by faith in future grace, or in order to maintain appearances, or to follow the formula. So whether or not we follow a formula or not, the main issues that will determine God’s sovereign response is whether or not we are truly seeking Him, rather than the means. And he will bless us formula oriented people if we are truly seeking Him. And maybe He will bless us with the ability to not to pursue the formula, but the relationships with Him and with others to experience Him fully.

    Good post!

  • Dan Allen

    Jason,

    Thanks for your thoughts! I think if you read my followup post to this you will see that I (mostly) agree with the points you are making here. I also think that God can speak to us however he wants whenever he wants, my concern is more focused on the “what can we do?” part. Many times people go pick up a Bible and think by glancing at it’s pages they will be magically changed; I think it is important that we recognize that the Bible is not a magical book, it changes us because of what it says, so for our part we must go to it seeking to learn from it, not just to glance through it hoping that skimming words on some Holy Page we will be mystically changed. At least that is my understanding.

    Great thoughts, thanks!

    -Dan

  • Renee

    Hey Dan,
    Wow, great subject and responses! I love the way you wrote that Dan. This really rings true to my experience. I really have come to realize this past few weeks, that God has the control and I need to just allow Him to do what He needs to do. And as Anthony points out rest in that. Your blogs are being used Dan, God has started a wonderful work through this ministry…. My friends are talking about these writings and it really is starting opportunities to discuss and think about what Jesus has done for us through his love. Thank you!!

  • Dan Allen

    Mom,

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and I’m really glad to hear that my posts have been catalysts for conversations about Christ! Love ya!

    -Dan

  • Thursday Thoughts – Volume 1 | Called Out In Kansas

    […] Dan Allen at The Ekklesia in Southern Maine wrote “Step by Step” […]

  • Reiterate: 07.31.10 | The Ekklesia in Southern Maine

    […] Step by Step – “I don’t simply want to follow steps to look like a good Christian; I want to know God and connect with Him.” […]

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