Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Never Stop Growing

We constantly talk about our children's growth, but what about ours?  How are we being ever-transformed by God and inwardly changed?  This article by Keri Wyatt Kent addresses our need to grow and be filled by God so we may pour into the lives entrusted to us.  

Never Stop Growing
Keri Wyatt Kent 
posted 2/06/2009Never Stop Growing

My neighbor to the east has at least a dozen ancient fir trees on his property. They're taller than the house, though still not as tall as the willows along the fence line. While their quiet dark green blends in with the other trees in summer, they are conspicuous in winter, especially in the early morning, silhouetted black against the lightening sky.

I sip coffee and look out my kitchen window at their familiar, imposing outlines. How many years have I stood in this kitchen, sipping coffee early in the morning, looking out at those same trees? It feels comforting and yet it brings a certain restlessness. When does routine turn into rut?

My son, who it seems yesterday was the baby on my hip, folds his lanky frame into a chair to eat his breakfast. The view from my window is the same, but here in my house my children are changing before my eyes into teenagers. This keeps things interesting.

As they grow and change, I wonder—am I? Am I growing and shifting, learning enough to keep up with them? I see parenting as a complex arrangement, at least part of which is the spiritual discipling of my son and daughter. I cannot give away what I don't have. Am I filled up enough to pour into them? Though they have grown taller than me, I realize I must be mindful to nurture and notice the changes.

As we do ministry, it sometimes feels like the same scene is played out again and again. We may become weary of doing the good work that God has called us to do. We may feel we are wearing a rut in the floor of the nursery, having walked that same path for so long. We may tire of bounding hormones and interpersonal drama that marks junior high ministry. Our steadfastness can begin to feel like stuckness.

And yet, we get to witness the unfolding of persons and to play a role in that. We see these children growing, learning. Sometimes we watch as they make mistakes or seem to wander from the truth we've so diligently taught them. While this is painful, we must remember our limitations and that God is ultimately in control.

We are called to help children grow closer to God. But our effectiveness is limited when we attend only to their growth and ignore our own progress. While we may not be changing as dramatically as the children we lead, God did not create us to stagnate. That's the reason for this column: to encourage you to care for your own soul, to take time to nurture your relationship with God so that you can continue to grow. Our change may not be as dramatic, but we must continue to seek God, to allow him to transform our spirits. When we stop growing, we die.

The pines are not going anywhere and yet they are very much alive. If they weren't, they would no longer be here. In the ten years I've been living in this house, those trees have grown taller—so slowly that I haven't noticed it. They've provided shade, oxygen, beauty, and of course shelter for squirrels and birds. While I cannot see it, there is plenty of activity—sap flowing, photosynthesis, and so on—that keeps the trees green and vibrant even in the coldest winter. The trees are steadfast, yet growing. Although I take them for granted, I'm blessed by their presence.

The children you minister to or are raising in your home are counting on you to remain steadfast, to be dependable. They are blessed by your presence—even if they don't say so. If you're to continue to minister to them, you must stay alive and continue to grow. The activity may be mostly on the inside. Any time you invest in your own spiritual growth—times of prayer, of study, of solitude, of rest—will benefit not just you but the people you lead. This is what will keep you steadfast and growing.

Keri Wyatt Kent is a speaker, freelance writer and author of six books, including Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity.