I would venture to guess that most of us, when asked if we would like to grow more spiritually, would answer yes. However, if we were to follow up that question with, “How would you do that?” It may be a struggle to give a coherent answer. Not because the desire is not present, but more because it often seems so daunting. At times, there can even be a sense of shame that we don’t know how to take the next steps in our spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is an area where we feel like we “should” know what to do, but struggle to put the pieces together.
When setting out on a trip, you make sure you know the final destination. In thinking about our spiritual growth, a good starting point is to reflect on the truths of what God desires for our lives. In Scripture we see that God desires for us to live out the reality of being a new creation in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17), He desires for us to grow and develop in all areas (James 1:2-8), He desires for us to mature (1 Peter 5:5-11) and to live abundant (John 10:10) and fruitful (2 Peter 1:1-11) lives.
So if those truths are the reality of the direction we need to be headed, how do we get there?
Finding where to start may take a bit of time, however it can help avoid frustrations down the road. One of the keys to knowing where to start is vulnerability which I believe can also be described as humility. I think much of what our society calls vulnerability these days is actually describing humility. It is a hot topic right now, made popular by the author and researcher Brene’ Brown. Her writing is incredibly insightful and one of the things she points out is how we all tend to avoid vulnerability. She defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. When we grow in the area of awareness (where we need to start), we enter into a position of risk and exposure or vulnerability. Our performance driven culture enhances the struggle to be vulnerable. I think this also bleeds over into the spiritual area of our lives and we struggle to say where we truly are because people may either think less of us or we don’t want to admit and expose the reality of where we are starting from.
However, if we are to truly grow in maturity, we must deal with the reality of where we are starting. True, we may have some areas of lack but we also may be neglecting to see areas of God’s provision. We won’t truly see God’s provision unless we are willing to acknowledge our need for it.
Our culture is a bit obsessed with the idea of moving forward, so when you pause to take a break, many people will think something is wrong. My wife and I were talking with a young couple about this a few weeks ago. So often when we draw boundaries for our relationships people think, “oh they must be struggling” when in reality, it is one of the healthiest things we could be doing. Pausing to see where we are starting from or checking in to see where we are, is one of the wisest things we can do in growing spiritually. In our culture that is obsessed with moving forward, we may fear being idle. However, there is a big difference in pausing for awareness vs. pausing for idleness. The big difference is the heart. The heart reveals so much of our intentions. In pausing for awareness, our heart is cultivating an environment for future growth. It is a season of resting, evaluation, and preparing. Pausing due to idleness reveals a heart that is complacent. After a period of idleness, there will still be no further clarity on where to go or what to do next.
Below are a series of heart “check-in” questions to help you grow and cultivate awareness of what is going on in your spiritual life. I challenge you to be vulnerable and answer honestly. After this section we will talk about some practical next steps. I will give some examples of answers to help guide you through the process.
Is there a theme that I have been noticing in my life and the world around me?
What is God teaching me?
What do I need to learn?
What is on my heart?
Ex: My elderly neighbor who is alone, my coworker going through a divorce...
What am I worried/anxious about?
What am I avoiding? Why?
Ex: Talking with elderly neighbor about what all is going on in their life. Why? I don’t want to say the wrong thing.
What is God asking of me?
What do i need to ask of God?
Practical next steps :
When you work through the questions above, is there an area that emerged that needs growth?
How can you study more/invest in learning about this area? Are there mentors you could seek out? Is there a section of scripture that talks about it?
What would be some practical ways to move forward in some of these areas?
What is God asking of me? Take a step of faith and believe in Him.
Step 1 :Pray for elderly neighbor who is having a hard time in life.
Step 2: See if they want to grab coffee
Step 3 : When we grab coffee, let them know that I have been thinking about them and what is going on. Share that I have been praying for them. Ask them if they have any specific request and how I can encourage them in this time.
Step 4 : Let God lead the conversation and reveal the next steps.