Growing is tough business. Physically, growing is hard. Growing plants require the right amounts of sun, space, water, and food. If one of those things is off, the plant dies. Growing from childhood to adulthood causes changes that can be embarrassing or problematic. The kind of growing which results from eating too many calories over a period of time is easy to achieve, but the consequence of weight gain takes its toll on a body. Not one person in the world who carries a significant amount of extra weight feels good getting out of bed in the morning.
Staying the same isn’t easy, either. I’ve been struggling with communicating to my friends and family members via text messaging for a while now. It takes twice as long for me to text as it does for me to call, so I don’t text regularly. As a result, I miss a lot of interaction, and that hurts.
Imagine a woman who is still wearing her hair in a 1960s beehive. I think how much harder it will be for her to find a hairdresser who knows how to do that particular hairstyle as the years go by. She will have to search long and wide to find a person who knows how to tease and comb that hair just right, when fifty years ago any salon on the block could accommodate her.
Staying the same in a changing world and among changing surroundings and people causes us to take one step back or forward and twist and arch just to keep a footing in our space. After a while we might not even notice that we haven’t changed, but our aching body and soul are good indications that adaptation is pushing on us. Moving beyond where we are is scary and uncomfortable, and we will get it wrong more times than right at first.
It’s the same with faith. Staying the same in our faith instead of growing and adapting to God’s word will cause each of us to become stuck where we are, and eventually his leaning and tugging will cause our hearts and souls to ache from all the bending we do to avoid being changed.
Having an open mind and a malleable heart for God’s lessons to enter our lives is necessary for us to change according to God’s will, but an even greater struggle may be to keep our hearts and minds open and malleable. We may say “I received Christ’s gift,” or “I want God’s will,” but are we continuing to be open to growth, as only given by God? Or are we just saying the words?
It can be confusing, can’t it? I can say “I am a Christian; Christ lives in me” but if I continue to rebel against God, if I continue to go down my own path instead of his, I’m not growing. The result can be more pain than any I might imagine that results from changing according to what God wants for me. I will be hacking a path through the tangled woods alone, instead of being gently guided down the one God has prepared. As a result, I ask him “God, why is this happening to me?” God may keep silent, waiting for me to find my way back to him. The growth is hard, but it was my decision to make it happen this way.
Having an open heart to God’s truth has been the greatest pleasure of my life, and the greatest onset of growth for me. It is a difficult time of change, truly. It caused me to admit that I was wrong all the years I adamantly refused to listen to God’s lessons, the years that I so surely knew what life was all about. And it continues to be hard. I don’t always want to do what I know God is asking. When I stop growing spiritually, my soul aches and I am filled with sorrow. Sometimes I don’t even realize that my own refusal to grow is the cause of my pain.
But God always leads me back to the path he has for me. And I willingly take his hand and walk it, because the alternative is so much more difficult, and the rewards are beyond my imagination.
On that day after Jesus went out of the house, he sat by the lake. And such a large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat to sit while the whole crowd stood on the shore. He told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground where they did not have much soil. They sprang up quickly because the soil was not deep. But when the sun came up, they were scorched, and because they did not have sufficient root, they withered. Other seeds fell among the thorns, and they grew up and choked them. But other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundred times as much, some sixty, and some thirty. The one who has ears had better listen!” Matthew 13:1-9 (NET)