A Realistic Approach to Growth

Growth is never as simple as it sounds.

Ideally, it would look something like this:

You put in the effort; you improve yourself. Over time, continuous effort would produce a constant self-improvement. As people—as followers of God—we’d just keep getting better and better. The line would keep going up.

But that’s not how it works at all.

Growth looks a little more like this:

You improve—but you also falter. You get better at things; you get worse. Sometimes you take smaller steps in either direction—and sometimes you take leaps.

It’s not perfect. It’s not the straight clean line we want it to be. But it’s the way it works. Ups and downs are part of the deal. We can still be growing, even when our line isn’t perfect and straight.

Actually, that’s what makes things really messy. No one has just one single line. We’ve all got bunches. You, as a person, are an amalgamation of a hundred different traits, and they’re not all going up and down at the same time or at the same rate. Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control—are you equally good at all those things all the time?

Of course you aren’t. Which means your chart looks something more like this:

The Bible tells us to “go on to perfection” (Hebrews 6:1). We should always be striving to improve ourselves—but it’s insane to expect ourselves to be having the maximum quantity of growth in every area of our lives, all the time.

When some of our lines start plummeting, we should give them extra attention and start propping them up. When we notice them getting stagnant or plateauing, we should do something about that, too. But our personal charts are always going to be messy and imperfect, and we have to accept that. It won’t do any of us any good to walk around berating ourselves for not living up to our own unreachable ideals.

You are where you are. You are what you are—an imperfect human trying to follow a perfect God. The goal is growth, and we should never be content to sit where we are and stop trying to improve—but we should also never get discouraged just because we don’t see that one perfect line when we look at our own growth.

Life is more complicated than that.

Going on to perfection doesn’t mean doing perfectly every step of the way.

Messy is okay. Messy is part of the process. Messy isn’t failure.

Keep going.

Keep growing.

Until next time,
Jeremy

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