somewhere in the midst of my post-thanksgiving, tryptophan-induced haze, i deluded myself into thinking that growth is the easiest thing in the world. after all, i could have solved the hunger problem in any number of third-world countries with the amount of food i had consumed–several pounds of turkey and dressing, and enough gravy to paint a house. i could actually see my waistline expanding.
while growing physically is quite simple, though, growing spiritually is another matter altogether.
in the passage we’re studying on sundays, peter directs us to “make every effort to add” christlike attributes. spiritual growth is not easy, and it is certainly not automatic. in fact, it often seems that our greatest spiritual struggles arise when we determine to grow. take, for example, the recent email i received:
So, my questions are, how do we know what God has called us to do? How do we know when God is speaking to us, and that these thoughts aren’t just a feeble mind trying to come up with something? Why can’t God just send me an email, or neon sign me some answers down here?…I believe that there is a plan, but how do I discover what it is? How will I know the difference between what I think is the plan and what the REAL plan is? I don’t just mean in my job either, but in all parts of my life.
you might be interested to know, dear reader, that the writer of the above email is not a hard-headed antagonist, but a passionate pursuer of truth. any church leader will tell you that questions like these commonly haunt the spiritually engaged. if you are trying to grow, you may be struggling with many of the same issues.
first, it’s important to understand that as we grow, it’s almost impossible to recognize progress. spiritual growth is only seen in retrospect–others can see it in you, but you can’t see it in yourself. ironically, only those that are growing are candidates for spiritual frustration. dissatisfaction is seldom a symptom of complacency. therefore, we embrace process. those of us that are seeking to grow must acknowledge that we will never “arrive.” spirituality is not something we can ever acheive, it is a goal we spend a lifetime striving for.
the reward is in the process…the joy is in the journey.
secondly, the highest expression of spirituality is to know god. our relationship with the lord is like any other relationship in our life: our desire and devotion drive us to know the one we love. not know about them, but know them. intimately. like a marriage, the longer we live together and the more we share, the more we discover about each other. in the same way, as we pursue god (and embrace process) we come to know him. too, we come to know god as we engage the church. the body of christ is literally the physical manifestation of jesus in the earth and, when we gather, we edify each other spiritually.
and, speaking to the issue raised in the above email, we know what god wants when we know him more. we become attuned to god’s voice the more we listen to and for it. we know god’s plan for our lives when we understand his heart. and if we hurry, it will take the rest of our lives.
and that pursuit will fulfill our wildest dreams.