Growth means change. Change means pain. Pain means death. For change to happen, something existing has to go by the way side and something else must take it's place.

Honestly, who wants THAT?

I have trouble casting off those comfortable socks with holes in the bottoms. The flannel pajama pants that the elastic has worn through and are about to disintegrate at the next washing. I like my habits, my routines, my well-worn pathways and even though I talk a good game about switching routines and breathing new life into the day to day there is a strong suspicion that I may indeed be kidding myself.

But let's be clear, sheer change isn't the key to growth. Screen-shot-2012-01-06-at-8.52.01-AM

Simply doing something different - altering a habit or taking on a new practice - isn't the thing that draws us closer to Christ. If so, restlessness would be one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22ff)

Instead, it is the echoed and haunting presence of a few words in the words of old ragamuffins throughout the New Testament:

Perseverance. Trials. Tested. Stand firm.

It is not change that leads to growth, but the active embrace and acceptance of trials and struggles as character-chiseling goodness (see Romans 5). Beautiful and incisive, we face obstacles and injuries in our pursuit of Christ that force us to alter our path and tend to our wounds in ways that change us profoundly from the inside out. It's almost a given that the best growth in our life will not come from the times of euphoria but from what the ancients called "dark night of the senses" or "dark night of the soul" where our theology of "If God loves me then this won't hurt" is taken out into the light, like a surgeon's theater, and examined with exasperating precision by the eye of pain.

The most effective way to avoid growth in our life with Christ is to avoid the pain of life, which leads to change & transformation.

If we want to grow, we need to begin to understand the divine nature of pain. We have to understand that without the cross we would have no access to being set right with God, but more than that we wouldn't see the living and active example of what it means to trust God even when we don't get what we want.

When Jesus says, "Not my will, but your will be done" He isn't being passive and apathetic.

Okay, Dad, whatever. You win.

Instead He is showing us the poetic and soul-stirring method of saying, "Even though there's a cross in front of me right now, I know your care is here with me - present & future - and that You are enough."

How much of our spiritual life and theology is rooted in the avoidance of pain & challenge? What if we are in fact sabotaging our own vehicle towards that life God has in mind for us?

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