My son Matt is a college-ministry intern this year. A big part of his internship is classes he's taking in Bible study and spiritual growth. For one of his assignments, he had to ask someone this question:
What has been the cost of spiritual growth in your life?
Isn't that a great question! Who thinks to ask stuff like this!
Don't we just assume that spiritual growth is completely strewn with rose petals, bathed in sunshine, with the Hallelujah Chorus playing at all times?
So I've been pondering that question this morning. What has been the cost of spiritual growth in my life? And right off the top of my head, I've got four things.
Spiritual growth has cost me my certainty.
I like the clear-cut rules of “The Bible Clearly Says.”
But if I'm going to grow, I've got to be willing to learn.
I have to be open to the idea that maybe I don't know everything.
Maybe I will never know everything.
Maybe I could even be wrong about some things, now and in the future.
Certainty and growth just don't hold hands very well, and I hate that.
It’s scary to me to wait and learn. I want to just know everything, now.
But wherever I am right now, this is not the destination. I am not Home yet.
I've got to keep growing, and that's going to involve the need to be uncertain so that I can change.
I don't get to have control.
I don't know what God is going to do.
“He’s not a tame lion,” as C. S. Lewis said.
There’s nothing I can do, good enough, to control God, the world, and other people.
(That's been my big sure-fire rule to let go of: the idea that by perfection and performance, I could be good enough to control everything, and get the giant gold star from God.)
I have to want redemption more than I want control.
Because that's what God has for me in the end: redemption.
Any illusion of control on my part is just that: an illusion. Fleeting at best.
Some days I want redemption.
And some days I just want the control back again.
Spiritual growth is such a personal process, and it happens for different people in different ways at different paces. It’s been really hard to go through something, and then look around and realize that my former companions are in a different place from me now.
It’s been really hard to make decisions to go on to new places, knowing that what I think and believe is no longer acceptable to people I really care about.
Like Lucy in Prince Caspian. Nobody else sees Aslan where she sees him, but she's supposed to follow him anyway.
"Lucy woke out of the deepest sleep you can imagine, with the feeling that the voice she liked best in the world had been calling her name."
When that voice wakes me up and calls my name, I have to be willing to get up and go on. Alone if I need to.
That's really, really hard to do.
Spiritual growth is rewarding and wonderful, yes, when you can get to the top of a peak and look back at where you've climbed.
But it can be horribly, terribly, deeply, agonizingly painful along the way.
Over time I think I've gotten less panicky about the pain, which is good.
Of course there is always the sweating and the work--nothing takes that away--but having the experience of making it to the top of the mountain before gives you the confidence that you could do it again the next time, too.
Maybe these days I don't need comfort quite as much as I used to. I still like comfort a lot, but maybe I've gotten better at just riding out the waves of pain.
I hope that's true.
The photo at the top is from a hike Andy and I took in Canada a couple of summers ago at Stawamus Chief Provincial Park outside of Vancouver.
The Chief is basically a five-mile stairmaster. It was one of the best hikes of my life, but for three days afterward, I could not lift my feet off the floor. I had to take ibuprofen just to shuffle onto the plane and come home again.
Here's the sign from the bottom of the mountain:
Our spiritual journeys are like this, too.
People get lost and injured. There are hazards everywhere.
So stay safe.
Let somebody know where you're going.
This is not a walk in the park.
It is, however, something you don't want to miss.
It's worth it. So worth it.
Here's my favorite mountain-top-spiritual-journey song.
May it bless you on your way today.