How To Grow (This blog might lead you nowhere.)

While I’m sitting here typing, my wife is running. She’s a runner. And while I love that about her, I don’t really get it. I understand it logically/cerebrally, but not in any other way. And it turns out, the “other ways” are the ways that matter–the ways that make the difference.

My wife is training. She’s going to be a part of a team in September who will together run a 183 mile relay marathon. Why? Great question. I don’t understand THAT on any level.

But if I were to guess, the reason might have something to do with facing a challenge, looking at it in the eyes (or belt buckle–depending on the size of the challenge) and saying, “You don’t scare me.”

Just less than an hour ago, as my wife was heading out the door and adjusting her iPod earbuds, I sat down in the rocking chair (I sound old, don’t I?) to look at a magazine. It’s a magazine produced by a Christian publisher, and it’s one that I’ve learned to really like a lot. Since I had already read the article on sex, I thought I’d see what else was in this, the latest issue.

And while I flipped through the pages, picking out a page here, and a paragraph there that caught my eye, my mind started to wander and began to wonder…”What am I doing?” That question quickly led to “Why am I doing this?”

Sounds silly, and perhaps far too philosophical for real life (or a blog), but I honestly found myself wondering what drew me to that magazine, that rocking chair, next to that lamp, for those few minutes. One reason stands alone: Growth.

Somewhere within each one of us is an insatiable desire to become something other than what we are. It sent my wife out the door to train for a 183 mile relay, and it sent me to that rocker to find out, dwell in, and work on improving an(y) area of my life where something is lacking.

And as a follower of Christ, I find myself in constant need of growth. I am so often lagging so far behind Him–far more often than I would care to admit. Most days, when the eyes of my emotions would consider Him just a speck on the horizon, the reality of His grace reminds me that He is constantly moving at MY pace. HE’S the one who is actually IN me. Absurd, isn’t it?

But the disparity between who I am and who I believe He deserves is a chasm that actually doesn’t quench my spirit. On the contrary–it alivens my step. It kicks my rear. It says, “Grow.”

Because I believe the Spirit of God is cheering me on. And not from a far off sideline; from within this fallible, fumbling, flawed man He calls “friend”.

But the inner battle rages doesn’t it? Case in point: I say I want to get that six-pack stomach before summer gets here, and yet I’m drawn to ice cream like a moth to a flame. The battle rages indeed.

But here’s the kicker. I’m a “Discipleship Pastor”. I’m not kidding. Those two words are actually next to each other in my ministry title. Read this blog again, get to this point, and feel free to laugh aloud. And when someone hears and asks what you’re laughing at, do me a favor; don’t blow my cover. Tell them you were just remembering a Seinfeld or something.

So, its no wonder then that I am consumed with the issue of growth. And here’s something that will make you sad. I usually think about the growth of students over my own growth. I know, I know. I can hear my college professor, close friend, and mentor Len Kageler telling me that I’ve got to lead from experience, that I can’t take anyone where I haven’t already been, and that if I’m not feeding my spirit, what will I have to give to students? But I continually find it difficult to read a passage of Scripture and say, “Boy Jerry, you needed that. That was God’s gift to you today. Take that, digest it, allow it to penetrate your heart, and live it out with His help.” Instead my mind skips all that and goes to, “Boy, that would be an awesome lesson at youth group next time I speak. I can see those slides on the screen now! What graphics and imagery should I use to really drive that point home? Oh, I know the perfect way to close up the message, and really make it memorable for those students. Wow, I bet some of ’em will even cry! This is gonna be awesome!”

(I just deleted 2 full paragraphs that I typed, looked over, and wasn’t sure if I even agreed with myself. See what I mean when I say “flawed”? And I’m supposed to help people grow?)

So, in order to move from bloggishly rhetorical to hopefully practical, I’d like to offer myself some advice:

1. Remember your first love.
The truth is, I’m in love with Jesus. Might not seem like it to anybody but me (Lord knows the evidence is sometimes against me), but it’s true. I love Him for saving me. I love Him for putting up with me. I love Him for steering my life in a way that has, among countless other blessings, brought me the most phenomenal woman for a wife and 4 unbelievable kids. I love Him for even using me to somehow do something in other people’s lives. I love Him because He loved me first. And not just first–but before He created the world or anything in it. I love Him because…oops, I got distracted. Did I mention how patient He is with me?
But when I forget that this is a love affair, this relationship turns into just a religion. And that turns into a list of rules. And that turns into routine. And that turns into a rut. And that turns into Rigor mortis.

2. Take His Word seriously. Take it for all it is, all it has, and all it says; even though I still don’t know most of it.
So, is the Bible…
A. A love letter
B. A history book, or
C. A manual for right living?
The answer? Yes.
God’s Word tells me to “study”. It also tells me to “love”. It also tells me how to handle situations with grace, benevolence, compassion, and mercy.
God’s Word tells me to grow. So, by God, I better grow.

3. Be watching.
Maybe its just me, but I see and hear God teaching me most clearly through everyday occurances of life. Read most of the blogs I’ve ever written, and you’ll see they are nothing more than an attempt to convey how I am constantly reminded of God’s truth through what happened to me that day. It’s not like I was studying God’s Word–more like God’s Word was studying me. So, I always try and chronicle the things God is teaching me. And my life (for me) becomes a long string of supporting evidence that God’s Word is true.

As I look back over this blog, I can’t help but think that it seems incomplete. I’ve read it over a few times and beyond looking for grammatical errors and spelling mishaps, I’ve looked for ways to better it. But the fact that I’m coming up short is, I suppose, proving the very point I’ve endeavored to make. The growth that I need is so indelibly linked to the ways that I lack.

And I can either look at that lack and pout, or I can look at that lack and see the image of His fullness. Therein, growth is my living out the life that God already sees.

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