Spiritual Growth for the Long-Haul
Churches can be rough places for people who are trying to grow spiritually.
Spiritual growth often requires us to give things up, not take on more.
But churches, focused on their forward movement, often ask for more.
We need more volunteers–will you help?
We need more people in this committee–will you join?
We’re starting another Bible study–will you attend?
These things, while good, often get in the way of true spiritual growth. Adding new and more things, even good things, creates more clutter to wade through when we are trying to grow spiritually.
Instead, spiritual growth requires us to let go.
Of our egos
Of our activities
Of our pride in doing things our way
But there, we run up in conflict with our churches who often do not understand why it looks like we are doing and less and less for them.
Spiritual growth must be understood as a long-haul activity. We will stop-and-start, we will be discouraged by others, and we will be tempted to chuck it away. It’s only in hindsight that we truly see how far we have come. We must commit to the process.
Let’s briefly examine these.
You will be tempted to give up.
If spiritual growth is a long-haul endeavour, there will be many times where you feel frustrated and like nothing is happening. Others will chip away at you, asking you to help with their project, to attend more church meetings, to stop being “selfish” with your time and more sharing with others.
During these moments of discouragement, you will be tempted to give up. Do not do so! Use these moments as “checkpoints,” examining where you are on the journey and where you need to go. Let these discouragements become learning opportunities, and keep pressing on.
You will feel as though nothing is happening or changing.
Spiritual growth is hard. You will have many days where you feel as though all your progress has been for naught. You will seek transformation in a certain way, believe that you have made progress, and then see it all undone in just a few moments!
This is normal. Do not despair over this. Change and transformation affects deeply-held character traits and aspects of our inner self. We actually work against ourselves to push back against attempts to grow and change.
But even what seems like a failure is still growth. Where we are today is not where we were yesterday. Awareness is a big part of the picture. And it’s likely that our increasing self-awareness is revealing to us our darker side. It doesn’t mean growth didn’t happen; it just means more growth is necessary.
You will have small moments of success that will feel fleeting.
I regularly struggle with being judgmental toward others, comparing myself with others, and being angry. This is a daily struggle for me. Some days, I feel great. Other days, I can’t believe I’m even on this journey, as poorly as I feel (and do) spiritually.
Yet, I have to remind myself that any growth, even if it seems fleeting, is locked-in growth as long as I consolidate and keep going.
We give up if we allow what looks like a failure to take over and define us. It doesn’t! Our commitment to a path of growth is what defines us, and we need to stay with it, even on days when it seems like we are plowing through an unplowed field.
It is in hindsight where you see how far you have come. Spiritual growth is not always obvious, but it becomes clear when you have a sudden realization–and you realize that you would not have responded to a person or situation in such a positive way a year ago, or even a month ago.
This is progress. This is spiritual growth for the long-haul.
How was this helpful for you? What questions do you have?