“You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
Today’s post was inspired by my cousin’s Facebook post of a picture of her daughter joyfully riding her bike for the first time without training wheels. First-time accomplishments are like that, exhilarating. I’m sure there have been many firsts for you as well; first driver’s license, first car, first place of your own to live, first morning of being married, being clean and sober, being debt-free, paying off a loan, first time you successfully made your favorite dish, first date, first kiss….and on it goes.
If growth and change happen as expected, no one stays in diapers forever. (Shout out to all those toilet-training moms and dads out there.) There is something wonderful about the first page in a new chapter of growth. We were meant to grow, to change, to improve, after all. We can’t remain the same with nothing new in our lives forever. If we do not change, it comes to us all the same; and our refusal to change from one life season to the next makes the life changes that much more difficult to accept. Every challenge (crisis, job loss, break-up, piece of bad news, piece of good news, major life opportunity, health diagnosis, etc.), every change we face in life is an opportunity for us to change. How do we approach the challenge this time? What we tried the last time did not work. How do we figure this out? How do we overcome this thing that comes back to haunt us again and again no matter what we do? We grow and we change and we mature into the men and women God would have us be.
A tender young seedling has to break free from the shell that surrounds and protects it, leaving itself vulnerable to the outside world full of seed-munching animals and extreme temperatures. Then there is a struggle against gravity, through the dirt that presses down on it before it can break out into the sun and air. Likewise, a child learning to ride their bike has to push their body to learn a sense of balance as well as the strength to pedal uphills and away from unfriendly dogs. They have to persevere through all of the scraped knees and elbows until they reach the day when they are ready to ride without help of either a parent or their training wheels. There is so much more you can accomplish without those beginner’s props. There is a lesson here, Kids.
1 Corinthians 13, the famous chapter on love, contains a couple interesting verses toward the end, verses 11 & 12,
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; now that I have become a man, I am done with childish ways and have put them aside. For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God].“
If taken out of context, it might be difficult to figure out what God is trying to say here (not that I’m convinced I truly have it all figured out either myself). Previous to this pair of enigmatic verses, the text talks about how our imperfect knowledge will one day be complete, all of the blanks will be filled in, and our imperfect understanding and confusion about different things will fade away as it is replaced with the actual story on everything from the first word in Genesis to the last word in Revelations, and everything else as well. The final verse of this passage, which follows these two, tells us that love is greater than anything else, even faith and hope. Now, I’m no Biblical scholar (officially anyway), but these verses appearing inside the famous love chapter is a significant thing. (Feel free to add your thoughts on this in the comment section.) Once we take the training wheels off of our bikes, it would be ridiculous for us to continue to act as though we have no freedom or ability. We are missing the point of freedom and maturity if we behave this way in life as well.
Psalm 131:2 is yet another verse that has made me scratch my head. It reads:
“Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.”
This verse was kindly explained to me as a teen but I did not really understand it in much depth until I became a mom. When we adopt the very common perspective that God is our giant catalog store in the sky, we go to him only when we need something. When we don’t get what we want exactly when and how we ask for it, we often sulk and pout and basically act like a nursing infant who sees his mom as the lunch wagon only. As we develop, and we go through the uncomfortable-for-everyone weaning process, we learn to see God as more than his gifts and we can actually have a relationship with him. We also learn that even when we are not getting our prayers answered exactly when and how we would like them to be, God still loves us and has our ultimate good in mind. We can sit calmly in his presence and trust him. Good stuff, right?
Isaiah 1 concerns a conversation God wanted to have with the nation of Judah, which could also represent many Christians’ struggle to actually follow Christ in word and deed. The issue was that they had gotten so comfortable with their unholy lifestyle that they forgot that the many hardships faced by them were largely a result of their own choices, both individually and collectively. Their predicament was compounded by the fact that they continued to falsely believe all was well and God was being unreasonable. We all tend to grow accustomed to our own bad behavior and justify it to ourselves. Meanwhile as we begin to reap the harvest of the seeds we have sown we think God is just being a big meanie. We need to wake up and realize that our lives don’t have to be this way. We can change at any time. We first must acknowledge that there is a problem. We first must admit that we are in the wrong. We have to realize that this place where we are is not the end of the line. There is more for us to experience; there is room for growth and change.
Psalm 92:12-15 states:
“The [uncompromisingly] righteous shall flourish like the palm tree [be long-lived, stately, upright, useful, and fruitful]; they shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon [majestic, stable, durable, and incorruptible].Planted in the house of the Lord, they shall flourish in the courts of our God.[Growing in grace] they shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap [of spiritual vitality] and [rich in the] verdure [of trust, love, and contentment].[They are living memorials] to show that the Lord is upright and faithful to His promises; He is my Rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. [Rom. 9:14.]”
“For this reason we also, from the day we heard of it, have not ceased to pray and make [special] request for you, [asking] that you may be filled with the full (deep and clear) knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom [in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God] and in understanding and discernment of spiritual things–That you may walk (live and conduct yourselves) in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him and desiring to please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and steadily growing and increasing in and by the knowledge of God [with fuller, deeper, and clearer insight, acquaintance, and recognition].[We pray] that you may be invigorated and strengthened with all power according to the might of His glory, [to exercise] every kind of endurance and patience (perseverance and forbearance) with joy,Giving thanks to the Father, Who has qualified and made us fit to share the portion which is the inheritance of the saints (God’s holy people) in the Light.[The Father] has delivered and drawn us to Himself out of the control and the dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,In Whom we have our redemption through His blood,[which means] the forgiveness of our sins.”
“THEREFORE LET us go on and get past the elementary stage in the teachings and doctrine of Christ (the Messiah), advancing steadily toward the completeness and perfection that belong to spiritual maturity. Let us not again be laying the foundation of repentance and abandonment of dead works (dead formalism) and of the faith [by which you turned] to God,With teachings about purifying, the laying on of hands, the resurrection from the dead, and eternal judgment and punishment. [These are all matters of which you should have been fully aware long, long ago.]If indeed God permits, we will [now] proceed [to advanced teaching].” (verses 1-3)