I have been exercising this week, specifically, I have been doing a Thankfulness Exercise. Each day I have carefully written down three things for which I am thankful. A funny thing happened today. After four days of this exercising, I found myself being thankful throughout the day as I saw something, heard something, or interacted with someone. I think this exercise is getting me in shape.
Have you read or seen Andy Weir’s “The Martian?” I haven’t seen it yet, but I did see one line from the book that I thought could have been written about spiritual formation. “You’d be amazed at how fast you can get going with a tiny acceleration over a long time.” So often what I need the most is not a huge change, but a tiny burst that over time can make a big difference.
A. W. Tozer makes a great point: “To treat an imperfect brother or sister impatiently is to advertise our own imperfections.” When I am impatient with someone because of their flaws, I reveal my own. On the other hand, I have noticed that when people are impatient with me, it often says more about their flaws than mine. Truth is, there’s enough sin to go around. Love wins!
An actor admitted the story about his September 11 escape from the World Trade Center was untrue. For 14 years he has been repeating this lie. Doesn’t it make you wonder why people pull stunts like this? While I don’t positively know his motives, I do know that many people are desperate for acceptance. The church can make a difference when we accept others as Christ has accepted us.
Eugene Peterson writes, “Our faith develops out of the most difficult aspects of our existence, not the easiest.” Numerous verses and stories from Scripture back him up, and yet we work strenuously to avoid difficulty. We even pray that we would not have to face hardships. Sometimes I wonder if I really value my spiritual formation as much as my comfort. Is that true of you, too?
David Letterman asked a rock star if he regretted the large tattoo of his supermodel wife’s name across his chest since they had since divorced. The rocker answered, “No, you have to own the time.” Wise words. Rather than looking back at mistakes with regret-fueled cover-up plans, we should “own the time” to maximize our growth. Confession grows our souls.
As a Jesus-follower I want a life of integrity. Yet it’s so easy to have a divided heart rather than one wholly God-devoted. A good soul-care exercise is to ask: Is the person I appear to be on the outside in harmony with who I am on the inside? If not, I’m not living with integrity. Integrity means having an inner soul-richness that is as genuine as what I try to present to others.
I’m realizing more and more how important listening is to my growth.The last couple of weeks have brought so many helpful opportunities for me to listen to others through social media, often in the form of opinions with which I disagree. Listening to those with whom I disagree not only helps me think critically about my beliefs and opinions, but also helps me better understand those with whom I disagree. That better understanding helps me to appreciate people, even when I do not agree with them. I have so much room for growth. I really want to listen.
Most of the time, spiritual growth happens in one of two ways.
One, we decide to step out of our comfort zone.
Two, external factors push us out of our comfort zone.
Of these two ways, deciding to step out of our comfort zone in order to stretch and grow is often less painful and more productive.
So are you ready?
Step out. Stretch. Grow.