Look closely at the words Paul uses. Do they celebrate an arrival or describe a journey? Do they describe completing a process or making progress in pursuing one? If anyone would be justified in projecting the idea that they have finally “arrived,” or have their faith figured out, wouldn’t that person be Paul? Remember this is Saul/Paul. Paul the former Pharisee. Paul who encounters Jesus, then endures countless physical and spiritual hardships for the sake of God and others. He even invites people to imitate him.
Yet Paul of all people says, “I’m still learning, growing, straining, and struggling toward what is ahead.” So when he calls us to imitate him as he imitates Christ, we begin to understand that the self-control he urges is not just about regulating what we do or do not do; it is also about reshaping who we think we are and who we say we are to the world around us. Authentic faith, according to Paul, recognizes that we are still in process, that every one of us only knows in part, that only Christ sees the complete picture.
We can speak about our faith with certain assurance. But we must learn to recognize our limited worldview. To do otherwise, to assume that our faith journey is the faith journey would be to idolize ourselves. We all must press on. We all need Christ to continually open our eyes as he did for the followers walking with him on the Emmaus Road. May the Christ who continually meets with us, the One who opens Paul’s eyes, open ours as well.
As I live out my faith, how do I project myself? Do I convey the image of one who has already arrived, or do others see me as a humble learner who seeks to follow Christ?
Christ, I continually need your help to keep my eyes open. Walk with me along the Emmaus Road of my life. Show me who you are and teach me how to live. Amen.