How Do You Define Spiritual Growth?

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I saw her after seven years, and she looked better. Carmen had lost weight, looked just as young as she did seven years ago, and was anxious to tell me how much she had grown psychologically and spiritually. I made the mistake of asking her how she was doing after all these years. We had attended the same church, been in the same recovery groups, and I knew her as a woman who definitely had “issues”. She was a survivor of child abuse, had been married several times, but seemed to be genuinely interested in growth, especially spiritual growth.

Oh, April, I can’t tell you how hard it’s been since I last saw you. Jorge and I have been through absolute hell! I keep telling him to act like a man and he keeps wimping out. We went through marital counseling, and it just made things worse. The counselor actually told me I needed to accept Jorge as he was and quit trying to change him. Can you imagine?

She went on with hardly a breath.

I just couldn’t stand being around him, so now we sleep in different bedrooms. And I took a job driving a truck so I could just get away from him. Since we don’t believe in divorce, this was my only alternative, you know. And being away from him has given me the space I needed to grow! I’ve just grown by leaps and bounds in the Lord. It’s night and day difference, I tell you!

I just looked at her in utter disbelief. “Growth”? Was she trying to kid me as much as she had deceived herself? I uttered some benign, polite remark and said I was on my way to an appointment. But I kept thinking about what Carmen had said. She actually thought by running away from obvious problems, she had “grown in the Lord.” Unbelievable.

I’ve known others like Carmen. They confuse knowledge and growth. To be familiar with what the Bible says on issues because you’ve read it so many times is light-years away from k-n-o-w -i-n-g the truth of it. Truth needs to be “fleshed out” in our mundane daily lives.

Truth isn’t truth until you have fleshed it out in your daily walk with God and your fellow human beings.

We are told in James 1:22-24
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Anyone who listens to The Word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”

There are many who have been through biblical counseling and numerous Bible Studies, and they walk away feeling wiser, smarter, and bondage-free. Then a spouse, or a friend, or the children do something to displease or hurt us, and whoa! Away flies all the wisdom just “learned”.

Growth is hard work! It is not knowledge alone. There are many self-perceived intellectuals who don’t have a bit of common sense. And there are many so-perceived intellectuals who have no regard for others’ feelings. To them, knowledge is power. (Where have we heard that before? I think it was in the 1960’s.)

I know someone who prides himself in his expertise on a large variety of subjects, yet he is a doubt-planter with his knowledge. When asked how he knows things, his answer is always, “I have done mega tons of research on this.” Actually, that could mean he watched a video on YouTube, read it on the internet, or listened to it on a fringe radio program. He takes great pride in his knowledge. Yet a conversation with him always leaves the other person feeling drained and doubting their own judgment because this “expert” is all-too-anxious to point out why their judgment is wrong. I have even heard him say, “Well, you are coming from a place of ignorance, so I’ll let that comment go.”

Christians are too quick to claim they have grown in the Lord!! I figure if you have to proclaim growth, it’s not growth. If you have to prove how smart you are, you have much bigger problems you’re not acknowledging.

I feel bad for Carmen, and even worse for her poor husband, Jorge. She has deluded herself and, as a result, has prevented any real growth. She has ruined her marriage, devastated her husband, and been a horrible example for her grown children. Worst of all, she calls herself a follower of Christ!

Maybe that’s why a humble spirit is highly prized by the Lord. When I study the Gospels, looking at Jesus Christ as my example, I see that He had a strong sense of identity. He Who He was! Yet He humbled Himself throughout His life, bending to The Father’s will. And His life on earth culminated in the ultimate act of humility: taking MY sins upon Himself and paying the price required of The Father for them. He did not deserve to die – He came to die as a blood sacrifice!

Meeting up with Carmen has made me put “truth” and “growth” in a new perspective. I pray I have the humility to actually flesh out whatever I learn as I continue on this earth journey.

Psalm 25:9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.

(c) 2009 April Lorier


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