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May 2013

Bittersweet Growth

Secret heart autocorSo then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
~1 Corinthians 3:7

Spring is definitely the time for growth!  My barren backyard is now overflowing with leaves, seed pods, flower blossoms and weeds.  Flowers sprung up out of long forgotten planting beds and turned bleak gray into a rainbow of delight.

Spring is also a time of birthdays in my circle of family and friends.  And as much of a blessing it is to celebrate another year together, it's also a little bittersweet for me to recognize how much time has passed.  It made me think of the dichotomy of growth (college vocab paying off!).  More simply, the two sides to growth: as you move forward, something is left behind.  For me, as my children move ever closer to adulthood, I leave behind bakesales, field trips, trick-or-treating, kid craft kits, pinata birthday parties, and of course, my illusion of my own youth.  You may feel the same when you wake up, and lie to yourself in the mirror, but when the babies become toddlers, and tweens become teens, you have to admit it -- you're gettin' old!

For my kids, it's even harder.  Growing older means more freedom, more knowledge, new experiences, whole new worlds of ideas and challenges.  Heading off to high school is exciting!  But at the same time they're not quite ready to give up cherished teddys, snuggly blankets, game nights and other accumulated bits of childhood.  And my older son was lamenting over the difficult and sudden transition from nerf fight sleep overs to driving lessons, girlfriends, and college applications.

I'm sympathetic.  I remember the crazy dichotomy of those teen years when I would angrily demand to be treated like an adult while wearing my fuzzy pajamas with cartoon kitties on them.  And the difficulty of accepting more responsibility and more work in return for more trust and more freedom.

And I warn my kids that, truly, it never really ends.  God understands that to move forward you have to leave some things behind.  Jesus told us that to truly be his disciple we need to be willing to leave everything behind and take up our cross to follow him (Matthew 10:37-39).  Spiritual growth requires leaving some habits behinds, perhaps even some relationships, maybe some possessions.  It IS a sacrifice. But the other side is that you move forward into a closer relationship with God, gain more trust in God, and God will be able to use you to accomplish His purposes that much more.

So with all those thoughts flying around in my head, I drew this illustration for my daughter.  I tried to capture that transitional time when sparkly pens write scholarly reviews of Dickens, and chess tournament medals inhabit the same nightstand as cell phones and glitter nail polish, and the most secret, profound ponderings are journaled while in a ruffly night gown, curled up in a cartoon princess comforter.

Dear Lord, please be patient with us as we strive to grow in our knowledge of You and Your will for our lives.  Show which parts of our lives need to be left behind as we move forward toward a deeper relationship with You.  And like the loving gardener that You are, trim our lives so that we will become fruitful and abundant for Your glory.  Amen.