My baby girl was just recently in a stage where when she wanted to move forwards, she actually ended up moving backwards. (She has since progressed to a forward motion baby-style army crawl, but not yet to full out crawling). It was super cute to watch. You could see the look in her eyes when a toy was just out of reach. She wanted that toy, and was determined to get there. But the harder she tried to reach for it, push up on her arms and kick her legs, the further away she would get from it. I'm sure other parents are familiar with this stage. You can leave the room for just a few minutes, and come back to find your little one caught in some obscure corner of the room between the wall, the couch and the side table, not able to get out. Or as one of my friends experienced, the baby would end up under the couch with just her little fingers sticking out. Obviously this causes serious frustration in these developing mini people. Not only can they not reach the toy they want, but they end up in a totally unexpected, awkward and possibly even painful spot. Stuck and unable to get to where they want to be.
Sometimes I feel like this happens as we try to live Christ-like lives. I can see the life I want - living in freedom, experiencing intimacy with God, walking daily in step with the Spirit, reaching a place of victory over this struggle or that one. And yet the more I try to get there, the worse off I seem to get. The harder I try, the more I move backwards. The more I move backwards, the more frustrated I get. Remind anyone else of Romans chapter 7? "Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
Thankfully it is not about trying harder to get there. Becoming more like Christ is not an object just out of reach. Instead, it is something the Spirit does inside of us. More like a baby growing. There does come a day when they can move forward and get to the toy, but it isn't accomplished purely by their will to get there and keep trying. It is accomplished by the growth that is happening in their body that over time gives them the strength to crawl forward and go places they have not been able to go before. Likewise, the Spirit is transforming us on the inside, so that one day that spiritual fruit that seems completely out of reach becomes a part of who He has made you to be.