My husband and I had the rare opportunity this week to be away from our house and children for three days and nights to attend our church’s national conference. When we arrived home from the parenting sabbatical, our 18-month-old son greeted us at the door, holding one of his favorite stuffed animals, with the word “monkey.” He’s a verbal child anyway, but “monkey” was not part of his vocabulary when we left. And both kids looked taller or older. It was only a few days, but it was a taste of what their grandparents experience between visits. Sometimes the familiarity of everyday contact blinds us to evidence of change and growth.
I’ve been feeling a little useless lately. Or inadequate. Or some other emotion I can’t put a name to yet. I’ve been a Christian for 14 years and I sometimes wonder if I’ve changed much since Day 1. Or Day 365. I sort of feel like I’m regressing a little. Maybe.
I wish spiritual growth looked more like this:
I noticed this on the tree in our backyard recently. I’m not much of a gardener or plant expert, but it would seem to me that the lighter needles are evidence of new growth. They extend from the branches and pick up where the darker needles leave off.
Even from a distance, you can see the difference.
Like these peonies. Some fully in bloom, some on the cusp of fullness.
I’m no gardener, but I know what to look for in trees, flowers and plants. I can tell when a plant isn’t growing.
What about me? What do I look for when it comes to growth?
Am I more patient than I used to be? Less critical? More loving? Less selfish?
If those are my standards, then I’d have to say my growth is stunted.
Occasionally my husband will say something to me like, “You’ve come a long way. If that had happened a year ago, you would have responded this way.” Meaning that he can see that I’ve grown and changed.
Maybe it’s not easy for me to see because I live with myself every day. Maybe it’s not easy for other people to see how they’ve grown either.
Maybe we need to look for the signs of life in other people and tell them what we see. I don’t always study the tree in our backyard, but that day I had to take the time to look and examine its branches. The tree is familiar, but that day, I saw something I hadn’t seen before.
So it is with the people in our lives, especially the familiar ones.
A closer look might reveal something we’ve never seen before.
And we might be able to encourage someone by telling them about the growth we’ve seen in them.