I have a proclivity towards self improvement plans. I gravitate towards contemplation. I embrace silence. I am fascinated by anything spiritual. The phrase spiritual disciplines does not scare me.
But there have been times when I have been slightly embarrassed by my interests in spiritual formation and discipleship. I can be cynical about these tendencies.
Was this just a personal preference of mine that didn’t really mean much except giving me something to do, like a hobby? Was I just tinkering around with Growing Up like others like to tinker around in a wood shop or with an old car or playing guitar?
In other words, I was unsure if all of these books I read, all of these spiritual practices, all of these conferences and retreats I desire to attend had any real bearing on my life other than personal enjoyment? Was I truly being shaped and transformed by these things or were they just some things I liked to do?
Soon, though, life started to present me with real, truly difficult obstacles. I was handed a leadership position that I didn’t want in the midst of one of the most troubling times of transition, challenge, and loss our organization had ever seen. My dad suffered with cancer for more than two years and eventually died. Plus, I faced some dark, personal struggles that ripped me a part and tested every aspect of my being.
I have not been done in by these things. I have not lost my faith, in fact, it has become stronger. I have been able to minister to those around me in the midst of their own struggles, grief, and loss. At my best, I have been driven by things like love, grace, joy, forgiveness and surrender to God. At my worst, I have acted out of fear, resentment, and pain but have not been destroyed by these things and remain rooted to hope and the promise that this is just a season and that perseverance is an essential part of the Christian struggle. I have not lost myself, my God, or my love for others. I may be torn, defeated, and bruised but I still look to God and I still make Jesus my Lord. I am going to be okay.
It took trials and hardships to realize that all of my interests, tinkering, study, writing, and practicing of Growing Up has actually shaped me. I have actually matured and have tools to counter the challenges and I have built up the capacity to face deep, dark, overwhelming times. I am not some kind of mystic that is floating through life in a spiritual cloud. I bleed, I cry, I rage, and I lash out at God and others in ways that I am not proud of but I am not broken. I sometimes say more than I know and behave better than I am not as an act but because Christ is working through me in grace filled ways. He is changing me and growing me. I can feel it and am gaining strength from it.
So, if you think your Bible reading is a waste of time or that your prayers are barely reaching the ceiling or you can’t bear one more day of service. Maybe you want to just give up on Growing Up because there is little hope in change let me tell you to keep going because these things ARE shaping you. You ARE meeting Jesus in these practices, you ARE giving grace a chance to work in your life to accomplish what you cannot accomplish on your own.
You may not see it now but every effort at becoming Christlike is honored by God and essential to your transformation. Don’t lose heart, there will come a time when you too will know that you are okay, God is love, change is possible, and joy and peace are right around the corner.