In my lifetime there have been several economic bubble bursts moments. The tech bubble burst in early 2000 as startup tech companies that experienced rapid growth soon were going out of business. The housing bubble bursts around 2008 as the growth of real estate couldn’t be sustained and speculative practices overran the market and it all burst.
These are interesting metaphors as I think about Growing Up and living the Christian life. Most people of faith have an early period of great growth and excitement. Everything is new and thrilling; changes are happening rapidly; a buzz is building with every choice, small success, and modest achievement. God seems to be active and personally interactive with us. There seems to be a fire of wonder at what God is doing and no stopping the potential for growth. I have seen this in my own life. Times when God seems to be oozing out of every circumstance, every encounter.
But this cannot be sustained and life circumstances begin to pile up and failure inevitably comes and sin resurfaces. The fire that seemed unquenchable starts to diminish and weaken. God doesn’t seem to be around every corner but often distant and elusive. Our growth bubble bursts and we come crashing down to a reality that almost seems harsher and more cruel than where we started from. There is a temptation to throw up our hands and give up. If God can’t sustain what he started then what is the use of putting forth our own effort?
In order to avoid the growth bubble bursting we have to understand that our lives are more like trees than economic markets. Consider the following from Mandy Brown:
IN THE SPRING, when the weather is (hopefully) warm and wet, a tree will grow rapidly, forming large, porous cells known as “earlywood.” Later, as the weather cools, it will grow in smaller, more tightly packed cells known as “latewood.” You can spot the difference when looking at a tree’s rings: earlywood appears as light-colored, usually thick, bands, while latewood shows up thinner and darker. What doesn’t show up in the rings is the dormant period—the winter season, when the tree doesn’t grow at all, but waits patiently for spring.
Brown beautifully points out that our lives follow the “earlywood”, “latewood”, “dormant pattern.” We see rapid growth and learn things quickly but that period will shift in season to a slower, more deliberate growth. She says, “These latewood periods are when the novelty of a new situation has worn off, and the time for reflection and deep-skill building arrives.”
Know that you need both the early growth period in your spiritual life to push you to new heights and possibilities but you will spend much of your life in the latewood period building up your skills in prayer, endurance, service, meditation, and humility. The latewood period is just as important, though less exciting, as the early period. The only companies that survived the Tech Bubble were the ones that had a diversity of skills and strategies, not just the one growth point every other company had.
We need to embrace the late periods of growth and begin to settle in and do the work of Growing Up even if it lacks the spark and excitement of the earlier period. Each season of growth is necessary to mature and thrive, even the dormant period. We will discuss this next week.