FULL DISCLOSURE: The title employs a certain amount of artistic license. I don’t actually consider myself to be a Christian Who Never Grew Up. But I do consider myself to be The Christian Who Largely Stopped Growing Several Years Ago For Various Good (Or If Not Good Then At Least Understandable) Reasons. That, however, would have made a terrible title.
The super-condensed version of the backstory to where I am today is:
- Church has often been a difficult place for the last decade or two.
- The last couple of years have been particularly hard.
- My attempts to find a way out in recent months have produced either nothing or additional strife.
- I’m finally grasping that unless I change at a fundamental level I’ll more than likely miss out, mess up and repeat history.
God has used my circumstances and my amazing wife to get me to face up to something. It’s something which I asked Google about. And it’s something that led me to an eye-opening article.
I’m ashamed to say that what I Googled was:
I don’t care about growing as a Christian
Yep. Don’t care. Not “need help” or “want to start again”. Just “don’t care”. To me “growing as a Christian” had become some fuzzy concept I was tired of being badgered about. I was also being told, “You don’t care about…” or “You have no heart for…”. And every time I would react defensively with thoughts about, “That’s just not me,” or “Not everyone cares about the same things,” and the like. But although I could always point to the fact that I love to pray, I read the Bible, I love to worship, etc. I knew I had become something God never intended me to be – someone whose world revolves around himself and who has learnt to withdraw from actual or potential problems because of many past failures and hurts.
And then I found this blog post from Tom Greentree, a pastor in rural Canada. It’s based on the parable of the sower, a Sunday school favourite. But clearly it also speaks to those rather older than Sunday school age.
Missing the mark
Tom’s introductory thoughts immediately brought home to me that I’ve been missing the mark:
“How can some Christians go years without growing spiritually? I mean, isn’t that equivalent of getting married, and then ignoring your spouse? How is that even possible?”
Next, he highlights three specifics that can cause this lack of growth:
- Worries choke our minds
- Wealth chokes our hearts
- Wishes choke our passions
Read the article to find out more. After doing just that, I thought, “Oops. I score three out of three.”. And these aren’t just Tom’s ideas; it’s exactly what Jesus said. What gave me hope, though, were phrases like, “…when we do that, growth is inevitable…”.
Two other things
At the same time as finding the article, I did two other things:
First, I did a quick Bible study looking at scriptures that talk about growing. It didn’t take long to realise that growing in faith, knowledge, love, character, etc. is a commandment and an expectation. It’s not optional for Christians who don’t feel like it or don’t care, just like learning to love other people is a command and an expectation. Thankfully, I know enough to understand that, like the ability to love, the desire to grow and taking the steps to do so are things I need the Holy Spirit for. Trying to do it by gritting my teeth and being a better person is just plain old religion and will be no more effective than not caring about it at all.
Second, I started reading the book Growing into Life – Living By Design by Janine Fair. My wife was already reading it and pointed to a couple of chapters she thought might help me. Rather than just leap into the middle, though, I decided to read it from the start. I’m not far into it all but Janine starts off by confirming that yes, God wants, expects and invites me to grow – to be more like Him, to let Him enrich my impoverished life and for me to be more of what He intended me to be. She also confirms my thought that even the desire to grow, hearing His invitation to grow, is a “grace gift” from Him.
So where does all that leave me?
Earlier I spoke of recognising the need to change at a fundamental level if my difficulties are to be tackled in God’s way. By which I mean that if I just try to do what I think will give me a quiet life, or do things that I know I ought to do but don’t really want to or don’t really care about, or things that someone else says I “ought” to be doing…it’ll never work. Hence my revelation that growing, or at least starting to grow, or at least having the desire to grow (i.e. change to be more like Christ), is the first thing I need to do before deciding on any practicalities of what I should do on a Sunday, what I should say to this person or write to that person, and so on and so on.
The up-side of this revelation is that I can say, hand on heart, that I now care about growing as a Christian! (I guess it’s really “care again”, although I never really thought about it in the past.) I do want God to teach and change me and give me more of His heart – because the alternative is to remain stuck, half-hearted, bit of a hypocrite, kind of spiritual but lacking an awful lot, unable to find a good way forward through dreadful difficulties, and all the rest. No, God, I don’t want to stay there. Yes, God, I want to move. Help me.
Tom’s article has given me three hooks to hang my first growth thoughts on. And they’re not little things, either. I hope to blog about each one in coming days as I work through them. Then that’ll be me sorted. Yay! (Joking!)
A potential down-side, though, is that I could now use this growth journey as an excuse to not actually do anything amidst the troubles I’m facing. “Oh, no, I’m not ready for that yet. Another 2 or 3 months should do it.” But I hope, not actually being Peter Pan, that I’m a bit more grown up than that. After all, if every believer waited to be fully sorted and ready, we’d do nothing, ever. So I know it’s working on both at the same time, and I know my heavenly Father has the perfect plan for me, if only I’ll open my ears and be a bit more willing.
If you can identify with my struggle to get to grips with this, let me know in the comments below.