Great Lake Swimmers – Unison Falling Into Harmony
On Monday mornings, I meet at the early hour of 6 am with some solid guys. I think I’ve told you about this before. You see…we’ve been doing this for a while, now. Several years actually. I’ve been in-and-out a few different times because of college and living elsewhere, but since March of ’08, I’ve been as consistent with this group as I’ve been with just about anything else. Probably more so actually. We study giant, sweeping books of the Bible (Isaiah) or dive deeply into a Christian book that really stretches us. Not to say anything against Purpose Driven Whatever…, but that’s not exactly what we’re working with here. We’re snobbier than that…in a good way, I think. Maybe our next book should be on Pride, now that I think about it. Actually, our next book is right here, and it could wisely be your next book too. But what I’m here writing about today is our last book, again brought my way by my partner Coworker in Christ wise counsel dear friend, Taido.
In the book, Longing for God, two authors go thru the history of Christianity to focus on the works of “spiritual giants” to probe into spiritual growth. While the book had some faults, it really proved influential on our group as a whole. So much so, that after finishing last week, we all decided to embark on our own Longing for God process this week. We were assigned the following project: Lay out your own Spiritual Growth. What does it look like for you? How does it happen? How has your relationship with Christ evolved over time?
I digested the question all week long. While sitting at my desk at work, while lying in bed at home, while trekking 12 miles in one day on the Buffalo River Trail, while driving in my car and sitting fat and happy on my couch at home. I’ve copy and pasted below what I came up with and shared with my group. It’s the steps I took along the way, not that it’s nearly as clear and concise as that in real life. I finished each section by shortly detailing what my prayer life looked like at the time. In some ways, I think those short, sweet sentences themselves hold just as much weight as the paragraphs preceding them. Like a great Apple Crisp that almost makes you forget the steak you just devoured. Man, I’m hungry. Anyway…
I’d love to hear anyone else’s thoughts. Post it in the comments section, email it my way and I’ll put it up here on the site if you’re willing. What I learned after hearing everyone else share this morning is that the communal part of this growing process is pretty integral to individual growth as a whole. So sharing is caring…for yourself..and for others. Enjoy…and dissect.
My Own Path of Spiritual Growth
– First and foremost, I encountered a willingness to surrender and believe. To accept love, embrace a new life, and live for more. It was like seeing a black and white world turn to color for the first time. The curtain was torn and real life was revealed…not that I had any idea how to live in this new reality.
Prayed for God to grow in me, and for me to grow in God.
– Next, like a dog joyfully running alongside his owner, just-happy-to-be-outside and not too concerned with the leash, I just passionately followed thru with this new, wild and wonder-filled commitment. I was bold in my new convictions, so much so that life at this point was mostly lived by the law. That may sound contradictory. But I held comfort and found substance in solid commandments and moral truths. I stood strong in black and whites, in not even wading into any uncharted gray waters. Where nowadays this may look Pharisaic and legalistic, at the time, it simply seemed essential. It was following the lines on the script…no improvising…trusting in the words that had already been written.
Prayed boldly and believingly.
– Slowly but surely, I began to live beyond the law. This is not to say I picked up the booze, stole cigarettes from the convenience store, or starting throwing profanities at the heavens. It was just that I began to learn that this was not about right and wrong, but about life and death. The life and death of a living, breathing, walking and talking soul. Rules could no longer provide that sort of real, living life. I found a deeper understanding of grace, grew in a greater, real relationship with Christ. Began to live out the fruits of the Spirit because of my own desire for more out of myself, and out of this relationship as a whole. Learned to really trust the Lord, the ruler, with my life, with my daily, breakfast-lunch-and-dinner everyday life.
Prayed with hope and honesty.
– More recently, I have encountered spiritual growth by grappling intellectually with the Bible, with greater truths about God and my faith on a larger scale. In the middle of “wrestling” though, I have actually begun to really lay strong foundations for my relationship with God. Even more, I have felt complete grace and peace in pushing on old foundations. Doubt and faith are so closely tied together, that without the first you can’t have the second. You see, faith without doubt is no longer faith, it’s knowledge. I’ve been stretching out my faith like a walker running out his muscles. Sure it aches in areas it’s never ached before, but it’s also opening me up to run in a way I’ve never ran before. This kind of growth requires straddling a thin line between careful caution and reckless abandon. Be careful to be reckless…this is one we can grow in deeper ways than we’ve ever known. I’m just barely, barely scratching at the surface…
Praying probingly. Praying pursuingly.
– And finally, I mostly find myself skirting back between here and the place before. Here is where I’ve found deep, deep contentment in Christ. It is knowing that you’ll never run away from this relationship, and earnestly looking down the road at all the life you’ll get to still live together. All those uncharted waters you were once so afraid of. Contentment has always sounded so stagnant and boring to me. For most, that’s the biggest fear of commitment: “contentment.” It sounds like the veneer has been polished away and life has gone. Dorothy has clicked her heels and left Oz. In actuality, though, I suppose I can’t think of a better metaphor. “There’s no place like home”, and finally, at this point, you’ve realized that this home you’ve grown in is where your heart is, where it’s always been. It’s loving this home like never before. It’s still continuing to seek more, yearn for more, live for more, hope for more, and expect more. But like a college student coming home for Thanksgiving and being overwhelmed with this giant array of delicious, free, HOMEmade food, this is appreciating home like you’ve never appreciated it before.
Praying thankfully and undeservingly.
That’s really where I am these days. But before I wrap up, I want to acknowledge one more thing that is glaringly obvious to me, but I feel as if I’ve left it out to you. In the middle of all my growth, really honoring the Sabbath, fasting, service, study, discipleship, missions and other spiritual disciplines have all proved invaluable and essential. But more than anything, and a thread that completely ties together my whole piece, is a real sense of community. I could rewrite this whole post by replacing each “step” I’ve taken with one or several names. Of people that met me in that place and pushed me along like never before. That slowly watched my steps for me, that carried me on their back or even gently nudged me off a ledge I needed to jump from. It’s the fabric, the knitting woven amongst it all, and hopefully, us all. There’s no place like home. Who has shown you that? Who has given you that sense of community? Think about where you’ve been along the way. Who’s taken you there.
But even more, think about where you are right now? Open up your eyes and get your hands typing. Writing it down or, at least, talking about it, may bring more clarity to your own growth and your own life. I challenge you to take that step yourself. Or even, I challenge you to ask sometime to politely nudge you over that ledge.