Spiritual Growth for the Lactose Intolerant
My 15-year-old Jayden was a preemie at birth, born 2 months early and weighing only 4.5 lbs. But, what he lacked in girth, he made up for in heart. He is full of compassion, empathy, justice, joy, a natural encourager, and fiercely competitive.
He literally just came that way, I take no credit.
Especially since I am not his birth mom, and we share zero DNA.
When he was 13, much to his dismay, his sister, Audrey, who is 18 months his junior, was about an inch to two inches taller than him, depending on the day. And trust me, he checked EVERY SINGLE DAY.
He was obsessed.
He would measure on our wall, stand back to back with her, and even ask for stranger’s opinions, in hopes he would get the answer he was dying to hear “you are taller”. But, it never happened.
Again, his dreams would be crushed as we were seated at a restaurant and the clueless hostess handed Jayden a kid’s menu and a tiny cup with a lid, while his YOUNGER sister was given an adult menu and a big glass of Dr. Pepper.
It was painful to watch.
Of course, Audrey enjoyed this immensely. One of the saddest symptoms of his stunted growth spurt was the way Jayden started walking on his tippy toes in order to gain a little height over his worthy opponent.
This method caused him constant leg pain, muscle spasms, and even ingrown toenails (yuck). I begged him to stop the insanity! I assured him that girls have different growth patterns than boys, and promised him that his time would come, just be patient. Jayden was desperate. He searched on the internet to find ways to grow taller, stronger, faster. He forced down milk and ate eggs, two things he despises. He tried stretching and exercising. Every day waking up with disappointment and shame.
Nothing he tried helped him grow.
This painful picture of teen struggle makes me think of my own spiritual growth and journey over the past 20 years. How many Bible studies have I signed up for? Reading books, filling out study guide pages, watching poufy-haired-talking-heads on a video screen, as I furiously took notes, and used my no-bleed-highlighters to color code my Bible.
They have ranged from feel good, uplifting studies, to deep, thoughtful, gut-wrenching, archeological digs of my soul. There have been times I was desperate for spiritual growth. Begging God to show up and for these “spiritual giants” to show me the way. There were times when I felt I was a sapling in a room full of Sequoias. I wanted to be better, know more, to produce fruit.
These studies were my milk and eggs. There is nothing wrong with milk and eggs. Milk and eggs can’t kill us (with the exception of those with severe food allergies). I personally love milk and eggs. I would venture to say they are God’s gift to us. They aren’t going to hurt the growth; they might even help it along a bit.
But, true growth comes from within. Everything we need is within us, in the gift of Holy Spirit. When we tap into all God has put in us, the growth will come, and it will be authentic, and awesome, and exciting. The key to tapping into this growth, I believe, is abiding in the vine.
John 15:4-5 ESV “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, it is he that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
Abide is defined in the Bible dictionary as an Old English word signifying progressively to; await, remain, lodge, dwell, continue, endure…
Whereas the definition of abide in Webster’s is; accept or act in accordance with a rule, decision, or recommendation
Very different meanings and ideas in these two definitions. According to the Biblical definition, what Jesus is asking expects very little action on our part: await, remain, lodge. There is a sense of resting in these commands, a letting go, a trusting, a believing. Abiding is all about belief.
Believe in His love for you, and apply it to everything you think, and everything you do. He loves me. He died for me. He chose me. He is alive in me. And then stand back and watch as you grow.
Belief is not always easy. The world will say you are short, stunted, stuck. Sometimes even other believers, will urge you to study more, read this book, memorize this scripture, pray harder. And it can’t hurt, as long as you remember that He never asks you to do that for Him. He asks only that you continue to believe.
And in return, you get everything.
Some may even quote the very next verse in John 15 when unfruitful branches are cut off and burned. That is abiding according to Webster’s. Those dead branches are not believers. Unfruitful believers will be encouraged and lifted up until they grow. Not burned.
I am happy to report that Jayden has surpassed his younger sister in height. His current challenge is working to defeat her in sarcasm, and that will be a much harder task. I actually believe he is taller than me now, but please don’t tell him.
Some more verses on Abiding:
As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. (Jn 15:9)
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. (Jn 15:4, NIV)
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. (1 Jn 4:15)
Whoever abides in Him does not sin. (1 Jn 3:6, NKJV)
Enter His rest,