So I've told you people before that I'm nowhere near as smart or as prolific as my husband, the writer/speaker/pastor. I never will be. I'm perfectly fine with that. Just don't make fun of me when my thought processes/analogies, etc. are far more simplistic and much less profound than his, k? Deal? ;-)
I've been thinking quite a bit lately about how much so many people (including myself) struggle with developing stronger spiritual discipline EVEN WHEN it is something that we truly desire. We have been talking about this quite a bit in our small group lately, with several attendees voicing that they really want to love the gospel and get to know it better. But how? Why is it so hard? Why can't it be a routine, habitual practice instead of a daunting, difficult task? I'm guessing there are at least a thousand different valid answers to that question, dependent upon a million different factors. But God has been speaking to me about this through several different situations over the last couple weeks, and this is where I've landed (at least for now. ;-)
I think the biggest factor is that many of us don't do a good enough job of giving our souls/hearts the correct conditions they need for optimum growth. Here is what I mean--
Matt Chandler states in his study on Philippians that "no one accidentally stumbles into Godliness." Similarly, D.A. Carson writes that "people do not drift toward holiness." So true. We have a sin nature that is incapable of anything close to Godliness or holiness outside of the spirit of Christ living in us. So what does this mean? Well, many things actually. But for the purpose of this post, let's focus on what we can do to move toward those things even though every fiber of our natural being is set against them. I think the key to doing that is understanding what conditions set us up best for maximum growth potential.
Recently, our family "rescued" a bucket of tadpoles who would have otherwise shriveled into oblivion in a shrinking mud puddle in our back yard. We read about what it would take to keep them alive and help them grow into healthy little frogs, and we followed those instructions to the best of our ability.
Yesterday, we laid the groundwork for what will soon become our vegetable garden. It was hard work to dig up rocks and till the soil and prepare the area for the plants we will put into it this week. But without that preparation, it would have been ridiculous to expect healthy vegetables to grow.
In both of these instances, it was necessary to do initial preparation in order to set up our tadpoles and veggies for healthy growth. But we cannot stop there. It will also be necessary to continue to tend to them regularly.
I think our souls/hearts require similar care, but many of us fail to understand what conditions we need, and/or we fail to work toward setting up those conditions. We expect that it will "just happen" somehow. But this just isn't so. It is imperative that we learn what stirs our affections for Christ the most and find ways to put ourselves into those situations.
For some of us, it might mean finding complete quiet for a few minutes a day. For others, maybe a conversation with a mentor/friend does the trick. Still others might find that God speaks to them best through nature. Or reading. Or discussion groups/Bible studies. Worship music maybe.
Doesn't really matter which scenario speaks to you best. The important part is discovering for yourself which one(s) works best for you and making sure you create that scenario in your life as often as possible. And once conditions are established and maintained, fresh veggies and healthy little frogs will be abundant! ;-) It's a daily journey requiring regular maintenance, but it is a journey well worth beginning/continuing.