Unspiritual Growth

posted by Jeffrey on Tuesday, January 10, 2006 at 1:50 PM

*I've moved, and my posts have come with me! Check out my new blog at www.jeffrey-davis.net/blog/*

I do not long to grow spiritually...at least not as most people use the term. I do not wish to apply certain "formulas" or adhere to some religious regimen in hopes of achieving spiritual maturity. As the late Michael Yaconelli said in his book Messy Spirituality, "...there are no guarantees in the spiritual life, except for one: the longing for Jesus Christ is always underneath our every desire."

Those who have read this book (as I am right now since my wonderful wife gave it to me for Christmas) may recognize that the title of this post is actually the heading of chapter 6. Yaconelli goes on to say, "In spite of all the growth gurus and experts out there, we can't clone, manipulate, or systematize spiritual growth. We can't predict the unpredictable." In the same chapter you find two charts that represent spiritual growth. The first is what most Christians see as the goal--a steadily ascending line. The second is closer to reality--a line graph that goes up, down, and sideways, giving it an irregular, jagged, and odd shape. The unfortunate truth is that we (including myself) are disappointed and frustrated when we realize that we live in the inconsistency of the 2nd graph.

Here I would like to share with you a slightly longer excerpt from the book:
"Usually when we analyze a graph like the second one [twisting and crooked], we make value judgments. The high spots represent the good or positive moments in our relationship with God, while the low spots represent the bad or negative moments. But what would happen if we removed value judgments from our thinking? What would happen if, in place of good and bad, positive and negative, high and low, we used words like resting, listening, waiting, starting, returning, savoring, celebrating, dancing, learning, growing? How would our understanding of spiritual life be altered if we used these other words to describe our growing?

Maybe waiting is good and not waiting is bad. Maybe stopping has a higher value than starting. Maybe success is bad and failure is good. Suddenly the ups and downs of spiritual growth come into better focus. Some of us grow fast, some slow, some both fast and slow."
If I were to illustrate the past several months of my wife and I's life on such a graph it would probably look something like scribble art. One thing is sure, my thinking has been challenged more in the pages of this book in the past 2 weeks then it has in a long time. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Right now, to be honest, it really doesn't matter.


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