Emma Tanner

A Work in Progress

A Dream Delayed: building character along the way


Do you have a dream for the future? If life right now is not all you had hoped it would be, do you get frustrated? Do you ever wonder when your dreams will be fulfilled, and question whether they will be at all? I think if we’re honest, we all do sometimes. I read a verse in the Bible this week that really spoke to me about this:

Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character.

Psalm 105:19

If God has given us a dream, it will be fulfilled. If he has made us a promise, he will keep it. But in the meantime, we mustn’t expect just to sit around marking time, counting down the days. We have work to do. God has work to do in us. If we embark on a new career, we expect to do at least some training or preparation- go on a course, do some reading, maybe undertake some work experience.  And if God has given us a new dream, a new vision, there will be preparation to do there too. And not just in the revising, sitting-in-a-seminar-dozing-off kind of a way, but preparing our very selves. And that kind of preparation is a lot harder. It involves God showing us where change is needed, challenging bad attitudes, sanding down our rough edges and sharp corners. And it seems as though God often uses difficult circumstances and situations to bring about those kind of changes.

Take Joseph’s life as an example (you can read the whole story in Genesis 37 and 39-47). He had received dreams and visions from God from an early age, and he knew he was destined for greatness. But he could have been forgiven for thinking that God may have changed the plan for his life along the way. He was sold into slavery in a foreign country by his own jealous brothers, and then falsely imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. He must have wondered what had gone wrong.  Joseph entered that time of testing and hardship as an arrogant young man, and emerged as a wise leader and a faithful servant of God. As Pharoah himself remarked

Can we find anyone else like this man so obviously filled with the spirit of God?

Genesis 41:38

He ended up in charge of the entire land of Egypt, second in rank only to Pharoah himself. I wonder how things might have looked if his dreams had been fulfilled immediately. If a brash teenager had been made ruler, one who hadn’t had years of learning dependency on God in the isolation of a prison cell; one who hadn’t been taught wisdom, humility and compassion. Given Pharoah’s penchant for impaling those who offended him (see Genesis 40:1-3,22) I don’t think things would have worked out all that well.

I am often impatient. If I know where I want my destination to be, where I think I am headed, I want to get there straight away, without any deviations or detours. But for God, and for our characters, the journey is at least as important as the destination. The journey is often less glamorous, and less public. It might be that no-one can see us trudging along other than God himself. But when we’re walking that path,  God will be building integrity in us; transforming us into the people we were made to be, and we long to be. In the words of Christine Caine

What we do in anonymity will build our inner world.

Becoming people of character and integrity cannot be rushed. We will be a work in progress until the day we go to be with Jesus. So take heart. God always keeps his promises. The bigger the plans he has for you, the more groundwork will need to be done first. So I will try not just to look ahead to the future, but to embrace the present. To serve God where he has put me, right now, even it’s not where I want to be forever.

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In the beginning…

The first words of anything are always the hardest to write, and this blog is no exception. I know what I’d like to write in the future (and I know that I would love lots of people to want to read it!) but it didn’t feel right launching into something with no preamble, and no explanation. Why am I writing this blog? Why should people read it? Who am I, anyway?!

Put simply, I am on a journey, and I would love to share my travels with any kind and interested folk who care to read about them. Unfortunately my days of actual travelling (as in the go-to-different-(preferably sunny)-countries type) were somewhat curtailed by the expansion of our family and shrinking of our income (not that I would swap my two gorgeous girls, or the husband, for a life of jet-setting, of course… but I digress). No, the type of journey I am on is a rather more abstract one. I became a Christian at the age of 18, and have been travelling ever since. Sometimes the route has been quite smooth, like a gentle ramble through the Kent countryside on a warm day in September. Sometimes the terrain has been much less even, more like stumbling up Snowdon in the fog. Sometimes I haven’t had the faintest idea where I’ve been going at all.

The past two years have been rather different. After a good many years of what has often felt like aimless stumbling about, I finally feel like I am starting to walk the path that God has made for me (or rather, that he has made me for!). 2 years ago I took a step of faith. I acted on a passion that God had placed in my heart, that had been welling up inside me for a long time. I stepped way out of my comfort zone, and founded an organisation to come alongside and support new mothers, especially those young single mums often isolated within our communities. I was also challenged to go deeper with God, to get to know Jesus better, to spend time with him daily, be filled with the Holy Spirit, read my Bible. I have discovered (better late than never) that doing things in his strength is so much better than doing things in mine.

All this has had a profound impact on me. I honestly think that if I had looked at the future me two years ago, I would not have believed it was the same person. In 2 Timothy 1:7 Paul writes “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.” I used to be crippled by that spirit of timidity. Now I find myself speaking up, being bold, being confident in my identity as a daughter of the Living God. I am very much a work in progress (goodness am I!!) but God is gracious, and transforms us ever so gently and gradually into the people he has designed and called us to be. I’d love it if you could join me on my travels.

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