Feb1FriFebruary 1, 2019
In Pastor Jude’s blog earlier this week, he made mention of the brilliant word picture from Chapter 2 that acknowledges the eagle within me that wants to soar and the equally present hippopotamus that wants to wallow. I feel that. I also, however, feel like sometimes that hippo really wants to fly. You know? Maybe he doesn’t get that hippos can’t fly and he’s looking at the eagle thinking, “That looks good. If I try harder, maybe I can do that too.”
In Chapter 2, Darryl Dash gives the call to be committed to growth. And to that I would like to say, “Well, yes, of course. I have been committed to growth my whole life, but my commitment doesn’t really seem to be amounting to all that I’d hope it would.” But why do I feel that way? What am I expecting? Growth compared to what?
The growth I’m looking for is horizontally based, I’m afraid. What does my growth look like compared to yours? I’m like the hippo looking at the eagle and comparing my wallowing to its soaring. By that measure, I always fail. In my comparisons I notice either that you are clearly farther ahead of me and I feel hopeless, or that you are behind me and I feel proud (I mean, that hippo is a WAY better wallower than the eagle is). Both amount to clear evidence that I’m not actually as far along the growth chart as I’d hoped. Not to mention the fact that I’ve been in what seems to be the same place for DECADES. How have I just stalled out for all these years? Is God at work in my life at all? Am I not trying hard enough, submitting to his will enough, practicing spiritual disciplines enough….?
And then, as if reading my mind (and yours, too: admit it), Dash says, “Sometimes we get confused about what growth is. Because of this, we may end up failing because we’ve succeeded at the wrong goal.” Aha.
What then is true growth? What are we to be looking for?
He lists what growth isn’t. Spiritual growth isn’t:
2. More information
3. Following the latest program
4. Behavioural modification
And I’m going to add a 5th:
5. Spiritual growth is not expecting that the hippo part of you will be able to get you airborne.
If the hippo is my flesh, and the eagle is my spirit, which one do you think I should be focusing on for spiritual growth? I think most of my frustration in the middle of my whole-hearted, genuinely God-loving efforts towards growth comes from expecting my inner hippopotamus to soar. Which brings us back to Pastor Jude’s much more logical blog in which he says:
“We need to put ourselves in the paths of grace to grow, and we need to put ourselves in the paths of grace to desire to grow. So, it is all by grace. Yes, we are required to put ourselves in the way of allurement and posture our lives to be easily enticed and ‘practice the habits that will put us in the path of God’s grace’ (42). But, we will only grow because of grace. According to Dash, ‘Growth takes place by God’s grace. We don’t grow on our own. We can’t just pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. God promises us His Spirit to transform us from the inside out.’”
We can’t just throw a hippo off a cliff and expect it to fly.
And we can’t expect our flesh to grow in grace and Christlikeness. Romans 8 has quite a bit to say about focusing on the flesh versus focusing on the spirit, and go ahead and guess which one leads to death and which one leads to life? If something leads to death, should we really be expecting growth there? I didn’t think so.
I’ve focused on trying to force spiritual growth through the ‘strength of my flesh’ (now there’s an oxymoron for you) and it hasn’t worked. What then is true spiritual growth?
“It is the ongoing process of submitting all of life to Jesus, and seeing him saturate your entire life and world with his presence and power. It’s a process of daily growing in your awareness of your need for him in the everyday stuff of life. It is walking with Jesus, being filled with Jesus, and being led by Jesus in every place and in every way.” (Jeff Vanderstelt)
This spirit/flesh, Jesus/me, eagle/hippo tension will need to be carefully held as I read the rest of this book. I know Dash is going to get into practical steps and habits that will teach me how to get myself into a position in which I can grow spiritually. I will need (you will need) to remember to move to that position out of the spirit, not the flesh, so that growth can happen where the life is, by God’s grace, for his glory, and for my good.