It’s been a little while since I last posted, and meanwhile the world has kept moving along in all kinds of weird ways as we’ve adjusted – locally, nationally, and internationally – to stay-at-home restrictions and new normal. There hasn’t been a lack of posting topics, interestingly enough – honestly, there have been rather too many. Maybe you feel the same way. When life is getting tugged and hit and hollered at from what seems like every angle, in good ways or hard ones – where do you even start?
I’ll be straight-up – this post is going to be pretty honest. But I’m also sure I’m not the only one, which is why I’m choosing this particular topic. And if you relate, know that you’re not the only one either. 😉
About two months ago, as our local area began its “stay-at-home” journey (kind of an oxymoron, admittedly), the very driven, slightly-ADD side of me had some strong thoughts on what needed to happen.
I have no excuse to not be in the best shape I’ve ever been in. I have no excuse to not study more than I have in years. I have no excuse to not finish X number of books. I have no excuse…
Well, you get the picture. I was at point “A” on the map. And by the end of the quarantine, I was going to be at point “B”. Intense growth is exciting, right?
(Looking back, I do realize I might have been a tad too hard on myself. Like that never happens.)
But that wasn’t the whole story or the whole picture. I also wanted to end up closer to my Savior than I was before all the restrictions started. I wanted to end up more like Him. I wanted, desperately, to be more of the person He created me to be.
And you know what? That’s good. Good, and really, really hard.
Growth is great in theory. Kind of how a marathon looks great at the start of a race. And I’ll be the first to say that growth isn’t, and shouldn’t be, always painful or difficult.
But much of the time, it is. As you know, friend.
To be honest, as evidenced by the above goals, I wanted a certain outcome by the end of the quarantine. A certain level of further education. A certain level of fitness. To reach the “X that marks the spot” so I could then find another X, further up the road, and start heading toward that.
But that’s not how growth works.
And I was reminded of that pretty quickly as I started digging in and getting more honest and real with God. Started challenging tendencies and habits that are limiting me from really loving God with all that I am – some of which are deeply hardwired into how I act and think.
And when you choose to get real and honest with yourself, when you choose to challenge those things which have been part of you for so long – it’s not a neat and tidy process of moving from point “A” to point “B”. Oh, no. It’s messy, and it hurts, and it’s vulnerable.
It’s stumbling and scraped knees and bloodied hands, and sometimes losing sight of the mountain for all the fog.
And especially when we’re seeking to grow closer to God, to grow in ways that make us more effective for His work, spiritual attack is almost always right on its heels.
Growth often feels lonely, too. Because no one else is right where you’re at in your own journey, and so much of what we’re fighting is – well, ourselves. And if we’re not careful, we can settle into a feeling of isolation. We’re tired of struggling. Tired of fighting a battle no one else can fight for us. Tired of being relentlessly attacked. Tired of feeling alone.
And finally, in that “messy middle”, after the elation of our decision has worn off and long before the glory of triumph, growth is often weary. Why exactly did we choose this process? Was it really worth it? Will it be worth it?
Sometimes growth looks a lot less like growing flowers (Plant seed. Water and keep warm in the sun. Shield from unfriendly temperatures and uncomfortable situations. And voila – cute little blossoms.) and a lot more like the mid-way point up a mountain climb, when it’s all you can do to make yourself shoulder your backpack and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Maybe that’s you right now. Maybe it has been. Maybe it’s where you will be.
But you know what?
The best growth is the growth that pushes us closer to God. That reminds us we are entirely incapable without Him. That it’s His strength, and grace, and love that matters – and that keeps us going.
The best growth is the growth that God’s calling us to – even if it means taking a stand against something you’ve let lie dormant or unchallenged for years. Or decades.
The best growth is the growth that makes us put on our battle armor and get serious about loving Christ with everything we’ve got – even if it means taking painful wounds along the way.
The best growth is the growth that makes us reach out to others instead of withdrawing into ourselves – even if it means choosing to be vulnerable instead of a great actor.
The best growth is the growth that comes when we fight and wrestle and fall and get back up again because we’re carried by a God who is a whole heck of a lot stronger than we are.
In the end…I’m learning (albeit slowly) that it’s okay to not see growth as “point A to point B”. It’s okay for growth to be messy. It’s okay for growth to require grace. It’s okay to embrace the journey as we forget the things that lie behind and look forward with hope to that which lies ahead.
It’s okay for growth to be messy.
And as we get closer to the start of another new normal, as we start working our way back into post-quarantined society, I’m learning that it’s okay to embrace the process of growth as much as the outcome of growth. It’s okay to accomplish goals, but growth doesn’t happen when we reach them – it’s what happens along the way.
It’s a brave thing to acknowledge that we’re not where we want to be, and to choose to never stop running toward it, and to also be okay with where we’re at in the journey.
So wherever you are growing in your life right now – it’s a brave thing. Keep running. Keep fighting. Keep going. Keep being honest with yourself and with others.
Because we have a God who loves us, we can be brave enough to grow.