OFTEN we think of growth in relation to our experiences in life, our age, or our income. But this article looks at another kind of growth: spiritual growth. It looks at progress in understanding our relationship to God, growth in our perception of God's tender care for His creation. This type of growth may not seem as immediate or pressing as the other kinds, and we may never even have considered it. But many thoughtful people have found that progress in spiritual understanding actually undergirds harmonious advancement in other aspects of their lives. Growth in understanding the true nature of God and man can be found to be advancement of the most significant kind.However, it can also be challenging.
The Discoverer of Christian Science and founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, once wrote a poem for children that touches on the subject of spiritual growth in a simple but profound way: Father-Mother good, lovingly
Thee I seek, --
Patient, meek, In the way Thou hast, -- Be it slow or fast,
Up to Thee.1
When I was a child, I memorized this poem and often repeated it as a prayer before going to sleep. When as an adult I have felt frustrated with the pace of my spiritual progress, this little poem has sometimes come to mind. I find its words an encouraging reminder. The fastness or slowness of our path heavenward should not be allowed to consume or depress us. The crucial issue is, Are we moving in the right direction? Are our thinking and living turning more humbly, more consistently toward God? Are we gaining in holiness, spiritual obedience, and purity? Or is prayerfulness fading further and further into the background of our days?
This is not to suggest that the pace of our growth Spiritward is an insignificant issue. Certainly there's nothing in the Bible that advocates complacency or lethargy in learning more of one's relationship to God. As Mrs. Eddy observes, ``We are all capable of more than we do.''2
Yet even in our honest efforts to do more -- to express more integrity, patience, or self-control, for example -- our progress may seem snail-like. We may wonder why our heightened efforts to conquer a specific fear, sin, or sickness have not brought more rapid results.
Under such circumstances it's helpful to remember that the Way-shower, Christ Jesus, did not identify any fast track to the kingdom of heaven. His teachings indicate that one's spiritual growth can be a steep and challenging ascent, filled with temptations. Jesus said: ``Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.''3
Perhaps the wish that spiritual progress should be easy and struggle-free can be considered a wolf in sheep's clothing. Slow progress can actually indicate that we are on the right course and that we are building a firm foundation. At other times our slowness may reveal a need for more spiritual conviction and constancy in our prayers. As we turn to God for guidance, He supplies us with the wisdom and honesty to judge between sturdy, valuable building and lazy, self-justifying foot dragging.
This does not mean that God is causing us to grow in a laborious, painful manner.God, divine Love, could never place an obstruction between Himself and His children. He created man complete, spiritual, perfect in His image, and it's our job to prove this reality step by step, knowing that divine law supports our every effort. God could never hide or withhold His love from His creation.
It is our very nature to hear and heed God. God has not made His children dense and materialistic, needing to work back slowly into a relationship with Him. Our work is to put off the mistaken conviction that we are fleshly mortals separate from our Father, and prove moreof our actual, spiritual individuality. Whether we accomplish this work rapidly or gently is not as significant as the fact that we are growing in an understanding of God's nearness and perfect love for His creation.
1Miscellaneous Writings, p. 400. 2Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 89. 3Matthew 7:14, 15. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. Psalms 40:8