Strange Thoughts About Spiritual Growth from a Peculiar Mind (mine)

I have met people whose spiritual growth appears, at least from the outside, to have been a gradually ascending linear line of progression from glory to glory. I envy them.

More frequently, I have observed sisters and brothers whose spiritual growth seems more like the history of the stock market – lots of ups and downs, bear and bull, spikes and corrections, even affluence and depression – but, nonetheless, when one zooms out and observes it from a more distant perspective, the trend has always been upward. I admire them.

Still others appear to be always on the move, always active, always doing spiritual things, but getting nowhere. They seem to be always running and going nowhere, similar to the chess queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass[1], who, when told by Alice that she was running but not progressing, replied, in essence: “My child, sometimes it takes all the running you can do to stay in one place.”[2]I feel bad for those folks – they are very religious and very tired.

As I observe my own spiritual walk, it has never seemed to be a steady linear progression. At times, it has felt like the stock exchange with its ups and downs but overall ascending trend. There have been times when I felt like the red chess queen, running and getting nowhere.

And, then there are those times when my spiritual growth appears to me to be more like the chaotic, haphazard, arbitrary, unpredictable movements of dinoflagellates. 

Dinoflagellates are mostly microscopic critters that are neither plant nor animal[3], which can be single or multicelled, which photosynthesize[4]and also feed on stuff outside them, and which have two whip-like flagella of different lengths that propel them, willy-nilly in erratic circles. Unlike Alice’s chess queen, dinoflagellates don’t stay in one place – they move from place to place, albeit, apparently, randomly. Some are harmful; others are highly beneficial.[5]

Now, I don’t want to carry this rather bizarre analogy into complete absurdity (if I haven’t already), but the point is that spiritual growth – for me anyway – is hits and misses (to continue mixing metaphors).

 In the best of times, it has progressed, zigzag, upward towards becoming more like Christ. (Stock market)

Sometimes, it has been all about my own effort and I get exhausted. (Chess Queen)

Much of the time, I can’t perceive any progress at all. I know I’m spiritually moving – I’m not where I was – but I’m not entirely sure of where I am or where am I going. (Dinoflagellates)

Then the Holy Spirit speaks to me: “Shalom. Peace. It’s all ok. It’s all good.”

And then I realize that life is not a contest. There are no grades. Whether my spiritual progress is observable to me or not makes no difference. I am in God’s hands. God is forming me. God began a good work in me. God will complete it.[6]

I need not envy those whose progress appears ever upward and onward. I need not, broker-like, analyze my worth. I need not, queen-like, exhaust myself. 

And, during those times when all seems purposeless and random, I can rest. Under me are the everlasting arms.[7]

©2019 Lawrence Russell Taylor

[1]Lewis Carroll’s sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is officially titled, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, and was published in 1871.

[2]From the aforementioned book: “Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else—if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” 

[3]Fun facts (maybe more than you want to know): living things are classified into kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species. There are five kingdoms of living creatures: Animals (i.e., all multicelled animals), plants (i.e., all green plants), fungi (like mushrooms and mould), protists (such as dinoflagellates and amoeba), and prokaryotes (like blue-green algae) 

[4]Photosynthesis is the process by which sunlight is transformed into usable energy. 

[5]There are approximately 1900 living species of dinoflagellates. Most are marine; some 200 are freshwater. Although dinoflagellates are best known for causing harmful algal blooms like the “red tides” that kill fish and/or shellfish, and although some have been linked to major human health concerns, especially in estuarine environments, they do have a beneficial role as well. Dinoflagellates are second only to diatoms as marine primary producers. As phagotrophic organisms, they are important components of the microbial loop in the oceans and help channel significant amounts of energy into planktonic food webs. And, they have a pivotal role in the biology of reef-building corals.

[6]See Philippians 1:6

[7]Deuteronomy 33:27

About Dr. Larry Taylor

Radical Anabaptist, Jesus Freak, Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, spiritual director, life coach, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, writer, husband, father, grandfather, dog-sitter

Posted on May 8, 2019, in apologetics, Christianity, Jesus, Kingdom Life, kingdom of God, Spirituality. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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