Dealing with ScaffoldingBy Nathan Mates
As a Christian, we are continually "under construction" while we remain here on earth. This construction is not related to our salvation, but it is related to our personal growth towards being transformed into the image of Christ. [Colossians 3:10] This is not necessarily a steady process; it depends on our yielding ourselves to God's working in our lives. Much like roads and highways that are resurfaced, upgraded, tweaked, and the like, areas of our life are (and should be) changed by God according to his directions.
If you watch a construction process-- whether it is roads, buildings, or even just cleaning at home-- one will notice that construction usually involves temporary infrastructure. As a building is built, it requires a lot of scaffolding, which is the temporary structures used to hold up walls, let workers reach areas, and generally be useful during construction. Not all construction requires this; building a doghouse tends to not require any. However, for any house-sized building or larger, scaffolding helps a lot.
I believe there are some parallels between the construction of real-life buildings and the construction directed by God in our own lives. As a new Christian, it may be good to get in the habit of prayer by having a scheduled time during the day for it. Or, one may want to develop a habit of Bible reading, and take time to do that. The area under construction could be a less obvious area, such as keeping dangerous emotions like anger, greed, or lust under control; we need to flee [2 Timothy 2:22] from them.
Taking the time to try and develop new habits is the equivalent of scaffolding in our lives. By explicitly thinking on such things, we help encourage things in our lives, as Proverbs 22:6 says: "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." As Proverbs fall in the category of "generally true, but exceptions exist," we must remember that training is no guarantee of good behavior later-- much like training wheels may not teach one to ride a bike.
But, like training wheels on a bike, or scaffolding in real life construction, it is just as important to remove them when one is ready. The scaffolding gets in the way of working in the building, looks ugly, and shouldn't be there after construction. How does this parallel our lives? Of one becomes accustomed to prayer by getting in the habit of praying at set times, if we only pray at those times, that's less effective. Or, if prayers are memorized and repeated, they can become something done out of rote memory and not our hearts.
As we develop our lives, we need to focus less on the habits themselves and do the behavior encouraged by those habits. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says "pray continually," which is what the goal of any prayer habits (time, specific prayers) should be. Similarly with Bible study-- if it is done just out of habit, one can miss the expectancy that the Holy Spirit will illuminate the scriptures and speak to you. God can still use us in the midst of our habits, but he can use us better if we are working according to his leadings.
How doe we know what state we are supposed to be in-- developing a habit, or removing any scaffolding involved in building up habits? First off, like a large construction project, various parts of our lives may be in different stages of construction at a time. Some areas may be well developed, some ares underdeveloped. Promptings from God (either directly, or from others) can point out what needs work.
If you are being prompted to develop in an area, then developing habits in that area might be a good idea. However, if you focus more on the habits-- finding yourself in repetition of prayers, activities, or the like-- and not the reason for the habit (relationship with God), then it is probably time to spend time working on a more free-flowing relationship with God.