Throughout my life, I’ve experienced periods of growth, periods of stability, and periods of pruning. I like the growth the best.
None of these periods are bad, or wrong, or unimportant. In fact, we so badly need them all that if we are missing any of the three in our lives, we will not flourish as God wants us to. But though they might be the right things to do, and they may be crucial to our spiritual growth, they are not all fun.
My senior year of high school was a marked time of growth in my spiritual life. I had just returned from CHIC, a triennial youth conference, and from the bus ride home through the next year, I read my bible, prayed, or pondered the truths of God for an hour every day without fail. I missed times with friends, I postponed homework, and even missed meals once or twice to prioritize my time with God. And through that year, I grew in my faith in noticeable and life-changing ways.
My first years of ministry were a time of stability in my spiritual life. I wasn’t growing significantly but I was working with God. I was reading my bible and praying, attending worship and part of a small group. I was serving in the church and helping others to grow, but I was not growing myself. That was what God intended for that season, and it was good.
Seminary proved to be a time of pruning for me. Through the professors, the classes, the discussions, and even the homework, God trimmed away the parts of my life that were dead, or dying, or just overgrown. This pruning was painful as my old frames of reference, theological assumptions, and childish (not child-like) beliefs were debated and ultimately destroyed. It was a crisis of faith for me, but one that allowed new growth, richer growth, deeper growth to come. This was the most painful time of the three, but also the most profitable spiritually.
By no means were these the only periods of growth, stability, and pruning I’ve faced. But all three were God-driven, and all three led to a flourishing faith. As one branch on the True Vine of Jesus Christ, I grow because of the work of our Gardener God.
Have you had noticeable times of growth in your life? Have you had times of stability? Have you faced times of pruning? Which phase would you say you are facing right now? Can you see God’s hand at work, whether He’s fertilizing, trimming, or simply tending you today?