Years ago I was attempting to explain to a friend what I believed God was doing in my life. I sensed I was entering into a period of significant transition because it seemed that God was slowly ripping me from my circumstances and comfort zone, and it was happening in such a gradual fashion that the best way I could describe it was “the Velcro Effect.” My friend nodded his head and replied that he knew exactly what I was talking about. Velcro holds things securely together, though seldom permanently. The adhered objects can be separated quickly and violently, or slowly and methodically. There is always some level of resistance, discomfort, and noise in the separation process. This is the way God’s plan sometimes unfurls in our lives. Through various means God reveals that he is leading us through a time of transition. Often spiritual leaders have more questions than answers in this season of change, and it surely requires patience and trust in God’s plan with very little information to go off of. Somehow during this gradual ripping from our current lives and relationships, God creates in us a sense of growing expectation mixed with a little (or a great deal) of fear.
This pattern has repeated often enough in my life that now I more readily recognize the process. My personal experience has shown that God’s grace accompanies the slow tearing. There is a unique fellowship I experience with the Holy Spirit as I learn to wait patiently in the discomfort. I have often told others that during these transitional seasons “It seems that I wait, and wait and wait some more on the Lord. However, before I know it, He is on the move in my life, and it seems like I have to run to catch up.”
This “Velcro Effect” is illustrated in the three-year spiritual journey the twelve disciples shared with Jesus. They were swiftly ripped from their normal lives and comfort zones by three earth-shattering words: “Come, follow me.” Suddenly their lives disengaged from the old reality and adhered to a new reality of life with Jesus. No doubt they relished this season of ministry and probably hoped it would last forever. Yet toward the end of his ministry, Jesus began to slowly and methodically rip them from their circumstances and comfort zones again to prepare them for a new, more effective ministry. The velcro ripped a little as he sent them out as short-term missionaries armed with his authority and blessing. It ripped some more when he began to speak descriptively of his future arrest, suffering, and ultimate sacrifice. Eventually the last rip of the velcro took place when Jesus commissioned them, then abruptly ascended out of their sight, instructing them to wait for a while. Truthfully, there is pain in this process of spiritual growth: ripping, releasing, and waiting before the reattachment finally begins.
For the disciples, was it worth the discomfort, uncertainty, and incessant waiting? On the day of Pentecost, they received the promised Holy Spirit, and the velcro was immediately reattached to a new reality – the Church of Jesus Christ. They were ushered into a season of ministry marked by greater power, broader influence, and exponential fruitfulness. After waiting for what seemed to be an eternity, the disciples were suddenly running to catch up with the Holy Spirit just as they had once run to catch up with Jesus.
This would not be the last time an uncomfortable change of circumstances took place in the lives of the disciples. They were eventually torn loose from their effective ministries and released again to the uttermost parts of the world for the sake of the gospel and the church. Again, was it worth the discomfort, uncertainty, and incessant waiting? Look in the mirror at the face of a Christ-follower two thousand years removed and perhaps half-way around the world and you have your answer. Their discomfort translated into our comfort and salvation.
I’ve experienced this process for the past five years as I transitioned from a long-term ministry position in a great church to my current role as the founder of Latitude GLC. Although it has been challenging at times, enduring fear of the unknown, loss of job security, and wondering if people think I am reckless or unwise for stepping out in faith at my age (54), I am also filled with hope and expectancy to see the vision God planted in me back then starting to take shape. Just this week I have been able to encourage several leaders in their spiritual journeys. I feel joy in obedience and living out my calling in the midst of continued transition.
If you are experiencing “the Velcro effect” in your spiritual journey, take heart. God is on the move in your life. Soon you may be running to catch up to Him as he leads you into a period of greater power, influence, and fruitfulness.
Keith West is the founding President of Latitude GLC, a non-profit ministry in Rockwall, Texas. Keith believes his calling is to be a "Barnabas" to the next generation of spiritual leaders.