If you could eavesdrop on a conversation between a group of writers, you might hear them say things like, “How’s the new WIP coming along?” “My WIP refuses to cooperate.” “I’m almost done with my WIP.”
And you might think they’ve lost their marbles (totally possible) or that they have their own language (also true). But “WIP” stands for Work in Progress.
But I have other, non-writing WIPs as well. For example, there’s this puzzle my husband and I are working on.
When it’s done, it’s supposed to look like this:
Yeah, I can’t see how that’s going to happen either. But eventually we’ll move these various segments into the right places and find the pieces that bring the jumbled parts together and the completed picture will look just like it’s supposed to. (That first image of the mixed up puzzle is exactly what it looks like in my brain when I’m revising a WIP, by the way.)
Come to think of it, I’m a WIP as well. And, if I may dare to presume, so are you. Just as there are certain words, like WIP, that writers use, there are also words that Christians use to describe the work God is doing (and has done) in us.
The first is justification, or God’s act of declaring us “not guilty” for our sins. Our justification is not a work in progress. It was completed at the cross, when Jesus took the punishment for every one of our sins on himself. His resurrection gives us the assurance of God’s forgiveness and the promise that one day we will be with him in glory everlasting.
The other word is sanctification, the process by which God works in our hearts to lead us to live holy lives out of thankfulness for our justification. And that is a work in progress. Because even though Jesus has freed us from the guilt of our sins, as long as we are on this side of heaven, we will still struggle with temptation. As God put it in Genesis, “Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7). That’s a pretty terrifying picture, isn’t it, sin crouching at our door? But thankfully, God doesn’t expect us to figure out our sanctification on our own. In fact, we can’t. It’s only through him and his power that we can turn away from sin and live in a God-pleasing way. As the apostle Paul put it, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). And, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
Okay, I could go on with verses like this all day (they’re so encouraging, aren’t they!). But as I was thinking about this, I realized that this is what’s so compelling about Christian romance. It shows us characters who are still works in progress. They may already know they are justified by grace, or they may come to know it in the course of the story. And at the same time, they are learning to live for the Lord. They don’t always get it right, they slip, they sin, and as they learn from those experiences, so do we.
Even at the end of the story, as we sigh with joy at their happily ever after, we also know that they will continue to face challenges in the future (because that’s life). But that’s okay. Because we also know that God will bring them through those challenges. He will continue the work in progress of their sanctification. And he will continue to assure them that their justification is already a done deal. And so is ours.
Your turn: What kinds of faith struggles have you read about in a Christian romance that have really touched you? Are there any faith struggles you would like to see more of in Christian fiction?