The Slow Work of Spiritual Growth

Trees at my old home

Spiritual Growth is sometimes fast but mostly slow. We live in an age of sound bytes and short attention spans. The recommended length of a FaceBook Video is 60 seconds! But not everything that is good happens fast. Slow cooking, gardening, and the slow work of spiritual growth are all things that are not fast.  Somethings cannot be rushed. They take time. Somethings take a lifetime. A few years ago I drove past the house my family lived in while I was in Junior and Senior High School. Beside the drive way were 3 trees I planted. Two Pin Oaks and an Elm. When I planted them they were 4′ – 5′ tall and I planted them far apart so when they grew they would make a beautiful grouping. What a delight it was to see them 30 years later.  They did not grow quickly. But they grew well.

There are times when we grow quickly and suddenly like a young tree in spring. Conversion to faith feels this way. We make what often feels like a 180 degree orientation in life towards God and experience the amazing peace and meaning that accompanies new faith.  Most of the time the slow work of spiritual growth tests our patience and expectations of rapid progress.

“They are like trees planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in due season,” (Psalm 1:3) Christians often speak of seasons in life. It often seems like part of the lingo of faith, but for obvious good reason.

Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, *
nor lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seats of the scornful!
Their delight is in the law of the Lord, *
and they meditate on his law day and night.
They are like trees planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; *
everything they do shall prosper. (psalm 1:1-3)

There are times we seem to progress slowly or not at all. Tree’s in fall and winter seem quite quiet also. And then there are the times we spend in the wilderness of faith. What some have called the dark night of the soul. Season’s of wilderness or slow growth call forth our perseverance and obedience. We are tested and have opportunity to grow in these lesser valued aspects of faith.

Growing as followers of Christ is a slow work. Here at Christ Church we are focused on living in the presence to God in all seasons. We invite people into ancient patterns of prayer that we use daily and weekly. Jesus prayed daily in private and weekly in Synagogue or Temple. So did his disciples. So do we. Entering into these patterns is a shock to the system. Some people can jump right in while others are more comfortable easing into these patterns. Think of this as a good, better, and best options.

The Good, Better, Best of Spiritual Growth

Good is attending Sunday Worship in a christian community. Our attendance honors God and feeds our spirit. We honor God with our presence. God feeds our spirit. Worship in church stimulates the soul and feeds our spirits. We come away refreshed in some way knowing we are better for attending. We grow in hope and trust and our beliefs are sharpened and refreshed.

Better is attending Sunday Worship in a Christian Community and praying daily. We use the Daily office of Morning and Evening Prayer. One or the other is better than neither and both is better still. Morning prayer is typically 15 – 20 minutes of devotion and reading. There are other services as well that some people enjoy like compline. The key is to find a pattern that is manageable and to maintain it.

Best is Sunday Worship, Daily Prayer, and Service to the Community. Service to the community can be within the church like serving on the Altar Guild or outside of the church assisting in a food bank, homeless shelter, beach cleanup. The key is to be engaged in a way that puts feet on your faith. Ministries come and go. We do them for a time and then typically move on to another ministry. Doing them as part of our faith walk is the key. Doing them with other members of the church builds up the church as well.

Spiritual Growth is a slow work. God invites us into it and encourages us in it. It doesn’t always feel this way and often we don’t appreciate the encouragement at the time. Hindsight is 20-20 though and often we recognize God’s providence after a season of wilderness wandering.

 

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