Growing up is a funny thing. I remember my mom lecturing me as a teenager when I would complain “life is hard”. “Compared to what?” she’d ask. Then there was “your brother will grow out of this need to torture you” or my personal favorite, “you’ll understand when you’re older”.
(My brothers and I are close now, but we hated each other when we were kids. “Hate” is a pretty strong word, I guess, but it is an accurate description of my feelings at the time, though God knows I didn’t really mean it.)
Growing up into adulthood isn’t all that different from growing spiritually. You go into it all giddy, thinking you are prepared for it. (i.e. ooo! my first credit card!) Then when when it “growing” and “stretching” happens, you start squirm a little, wishing things were the way they used to be. (you mean I have to pay this bill?) And ultimately, we can look back and see the lesson learned, why it happened, and how we are better for it.
But here’s the thing I’ve wondered about spiritual growth: how can we be sure we’ve grown or if maybe we’ve just gotten more intelligent about spiritual things? I can read book and after book, consult scripture, spend time in prayer and ultimately come out thinking “I’m good. I know what I’m talking about”. I can put a name on my struggle, I can maybe even find the root of it, and then once again be at the foot of the cross asking for forgiveness. Then I just can’t help but ask myself, “Have I really grown? I’m right back where I started.”
My friend Landon recently said “I’ve always found the naming to be the most powerful piece of growth for me. Once I name it, it has no control over me. Now that I’ve named that a piece of me is scared, I’m no longer subconsciously controlled by that.” I’ve never been able to articulate that about myself, but I find it’s absolutely true for me as well… just as there is power in finding the root or reason for the struggle, there is power in looking back and seeing a lesson learned. But if it happens again and again, do I just “know” more about the struggle and more about myself?
Sometimes it feels as though I am cloaking my so-called growth in knowledge, that I am masking it all with “the smarts”. (This is feeling very Romans 7-like to me.)
Something to think about, anyway.