Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Painful Growth

At my church, we’ve spent the month of January looking at the idea of reflex. A reflex is an automatic response to something. Some reflexes are good, some are bad. We generally think about the idea of reflex when it comes to our bodies. When someone throws something at us, our reflex is to raise our hands and shield ourselves. When something comes close to our eyes, our eyes shut for protection.

As we prepare to wrap up our series, I have been thinking about the idea of training our reflexes. If we aren’t happy with the way that we react, the way we respond or reflex, can we change it? I think that we can. But we don’t do it alone, we don’t do it overnight, and it takes work.

Training is all about improvement and strengthening. In order to grow, we need to push ourselves. Most of us are probably not disciplined enough to do that by ourselves. I would guess that it’s a fairly small percentage of the population that is so self-motivated that they never need accountability in their training regime. The rest of us, we need all the help that we can get.

In order for growth to happen, we need to begin to experience breakdown. Training is painful, it hurts. We push ourselves to the point where our muscles actually experience trauma and during the rest that we give ourselves after a workout, the muscles repair themselves to be just a little bit more prepared, more strengthened than they were when they experienced the trauma, so that the next time they are faced with the same thing, it won’t happen again. That’s why we need to keep pushing a little bit more every time.

There are a few dangers in this process. We could push ourselves too hard, causing more than a slight trauma to our muscles which will not repair itself in a shorter time period. If this happens and we don’t give ourselves adequate time to recover, we may cause more severe damage. Even if we don’t push ourselves too hard, if we don’t give our bodies adequate time and resources to recover from the trauma, we also might cause problems. We need to provide our bodies with the best case to recover from the trauma that we have put them through, eating right, resting, and doing whatever we can to nourish them.

If we go through the process of working out and don’t really push ourselves, we won’t see any significant improvement. We will find ourselves on a plateau where we are continuing the same. There needs to be some pain associated with our growth. If we don’t push ourselves just a little bit further than we did the last time, we will just stay the same.

Whether we fully realize it or not, this process of growth applies not only to our physical bodies but our spiritual bodies as well. To be honest, it’s much easier to look out at a group of people and tell that they haven’t been working out physically than it is to look out at the same group and know that they haven’t been working out spiritually. It’s easier to hide spiritual “flabbiness.” But if anyone spends any time with you, they’ll be able to tell, it will come out in your conversations, your reactions, and your attitudes.

In some ways, the Western church has plateaued in regards to a spiritual workout. I am guilty of it myself. It’s easy not to push myself. It’s easy to do things the way that I did yesterday or the day before and not push myself. I don’t care which spiritual discipline that we’re talking about, if we don’t push ourselves a little bit more than we did yesterday or the day before, we will not grow.

If we’re not “feeling it” at least a little when we’re done with a workout, chances are that we didn’t push ourselves as much as we could have. I’m too satisfied with stagnancy, too satisfied with staying the same, too satisfied with not pushing myself. That’s why I need others in my life who can hold me accountable, who can kick my butt and push me more than I will push myself.

No workout will be successful if there isn’t an adequate amount of preparation as well. If I’m eating a lot of crummy food that doesn’t provide nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to my body, my body won’t be able to sustain the stress that I am putting it under. In the same way, if I am not eating and drinking from the source of God’s Word, getting a healthy diet, my workouts will be for naught.

It’s easy to look at the year ahead and makes a lot of plans as to what to do, how to eat, and how to live. The hard thing is the follow through. May we all commit and find others to hold us accountable so that we might experience true growth. May we all “eat” nutritious meals so that we might allow ourselves to be nourished by the Word of God. No growth happens if He is not a part of it

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