Brave Enough to Grow

This post was originally published on The Road to Brave.

“Well, it’s been a growing year, hasn’t it?” 

I don’t know about you, but I and my family have said that several times, and I have essentially NEVER enjoyed saying it. 

When we look back and see all the ways that we’ve matured or developed over a given timeframe, it’s often (not always, but often) in the context of growing pains. Growth involves change. People aren’t always great at change (cough Victoria). Growth demands a shift in perspective, too (sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally if you’re facing a teenage growth spurt). Sometimes we look backwards and realize, retrospectively, all the ways that we’ve grown. Sometimes we look forward to a new season and realize that growing is inevitably in front of us as long as we cooperate with it. 

But pains aren’t the only way we grow, and “stretching” or not, the process of growth can be a really beautiful thing. Here in VA, spring is starting to slowly deepen into the darker greens of summer, and amid the warm rain and sporadic sunshine everything is growing like crazy. The same thing can happen in our lives. It takes change and growth for us to keep blossoming. 

Which is sobering. Have you ever looked around in a gathering of older adults and realized that some of them stopped growing (or kept growing professionally, but not personally) somewhere along the way? Aging does not automatically equal growth, and one of the saddest things is to stall out prematurely, get “stuck”, and fail to keep becoming more and more of who God made us to be.

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Sometimes it takes great courage to grow downwards, to put down roots into a local area or community. Other times, the bravest thing we can do is to grow upwards and outwards — to choose to embrace the “shaping” God is doing in our lives. 

Making Space
Maybe it’s just me, but when it comes to daily adult life, I’ve found it’s incredibly easy to just fall into a pattern of running hard day-to-day, sun-up to sun-down. Trying to keep up with ALL the things (usually unsuccessfully). Trying to whack ALL the moles (usually unsuccessfully). And in that sort of daily sprint, it’s tough carving out time for a few moments of anything oriented toward growth. Time to be still, or time to think, or time to read that counseling book. Time to jot down some notes in my journal, or ask myself a few good questions, or hey, ask myself ONE good question. 

Forgive a cliché metaphor, but I really love plants (this fact can be attested to by my poor husband who must water all my indoor plants every time I go out of town). And one of the normal elements of growing any standard plant is that their roots must have room in order for the plant to keep maturing and expanding. Eventually, a root-bound plant will cease growing; it simply cannot do otherwise until it is replanted or the soil is loosened so it has room to grow. 

In the same way, when we’re either trying to build habits of personal growth or are facing an external situation that demands we grow, making space can be a much-needed thing. It may mean saying no to some things we’d normally hold onto. It may mean saying yes to uncomfortable things, like making space to jot down your thoughts or ask yourself some tough questions or have a deep conversation with a dear friend. 

I’m still not great at this (it’s a work in progress, or dare I say, something I’m growing in). But it’s helped me to remember the question, What really matters here? And often, that means carving out some space in my life so I can grow — inward, upward, or outward. 

Growing in Trials vs. Good Times
I confess there have been times in my life where I’ve told God, “You know, I’d love to just have a season where I don’t really have to grow right now? Maybe we can take a break from the lessons and development? How about NO more accelerated learning for a while?” 

It’s probably laughable. But so much of my personal growth has seemed to take place in hard times that it’s easy for me to equate the two, without remembering that sometimes we grow in beautiful summer-time seasons, too. And life has both of those. 

There are probably many different things we need in those different seasons of growth. In a season of “easier” growth, we may naturally have more mental/emotional space and breathing room. We’re not in survival mode, and we have more bandwidth for seeking out resources or learning opportunities. But it’s also easier to get distracted by life and the things around us and to forget about being intentional. In hard times, we tend to have less bandwidth and breathing room (sometimes it feels like there isn’t any at all). We have to keep the most important things in sharp focus and do them first and best. It’s also easier to remember how deeply we must lean on the Lord, because we realize we must do so to make it through. It’s often easier to remember to pour out our hearts to Him. 

But regardless of the season, there are also some things that are the same. Whether we’re in a P90X workout-type season of growth, or a casual summertime hike season of growth, we still need to lean into our walk with Jesus. More than anything else. He is the One working in our lives, to will and to work for His good pleasure, and He is completing what He began in us. In easy and hard periods of growth, we need to lean into prayer and worship and seeking Him—and casting our burdens and anxiety (which so often seem to tag along with growth) on Him. 

We also need to lean into our relationships with other people. We need people all the time, but it’s easy to forget in easy times, and easy to isolate ourselves in hard times. To thrive in both seasons of growth, we need to reach out, encouraging one another and not neglecting to meet together (Hebrews 10:25). And we need to lean into being healthy—even when it’s hard. Mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. That happens best in the context of community. 

Celebration and Reflection 
And you know what, after all’s said and done, it’s WAY TOO EASY for us to forget to celebrate what an incredible thing it is that has happened in our lives. We have grown. We have developed. We have matured. But sometimes we forget to slow down and realize that. So—even when growth is hard, or we feel like we’re making slow progress, or like we’ve only grown in one small thing, don’t forget to honor that work that God has done in you by noticing and appreciating it. It’s okay to celebrate. : )  

As with the “making space” thoughts above—it’s hard for me to carve out time to do some thinking and reflecting. But that’s what really makes growth the most powerful. When we don’t ever stop long enough to think about what we’ve learned, or how the things we’ve grown in apply to other parts of our lives, a lot of the potential of that growth is squandered. And we worked HARD for that growth. Don’t squander it! 

So maybe, as we go through the rest of this spring, as some of us get our hands dirty in gardens, as we all admire the beauty of the world around us turning into summer—maybe it’s also good to remember that growth isn’t always painful. It can be a really sweet thing. But even when it is painful, we serve a God Who is redeeming and restoring that and will make all things new. Spring eternal, in glory undimmed. 

This week, may we be brave enough to grow.