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How Natural Growth Teaches About Spiritual Growth

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I think telling the same joke over and over again somehow makes it funnier. Here’s one of my favorites: when I visit friends with a newborn baby I take the child in my arms and stare lovingly at the infant. The baby and I coo and chat with one another. But when I hand the baby back to its mother, I strike the most serious posture possible. “I’m so sorry,” my voice is filled with deep concern, “but I think your child is illiterate.” Hysterical, right? But it’s actually a parable about how natural growth has something to teach us about spiritual growth.

How Natural Growth Teaches About Spiritual Growth

It gets worse. Not only do I think my comedic stylings rival those of Jack Black, I also think my philosophical depth rivals Kierkegaard. Each one of us is born fully human. Each of us has the potential for relationships filled with love, kindness, mercy, and grace. And each of us is born a complete idiot.

The potential of human life and relationship depends on what happens after being born. Every child needs love and attention, food and care, safety and security. Every child is born with the capacity for language, yet has no concept of sounds, words, sentences or meaning. Every child grows in its ability to learn, discover, and relate to others. The beginnings of life are finite, the potential is infinite. Natural growth teaches us that coming into maturity depends not only on the child, but the family as well. And the neighborhood. And the society.

When Jesus suggested to a religious teacher “no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born from above” (John 3:3) he was describing the beginnings of our life with God. Some people think this is all there is to life with God. Jesus (the smartest guy in history) knew how to use a metaphor. He was pointing in the direction of life with God, a life that begins with new birth and carries infinite potential. Here is our challenge: we have embraced the concept of new birth, but we have mistaken it for the end when it is merely the beginning. Spiritual formation is not an option for “serious students,” it is reality that flows from the new birth. We are born into a new Kingdom, where the scripture itself refers to some as babes in Christ and others as mature sons and daughters.

All children grow. Some grow healthy and strong, others grow weak and die. Still others languish in a lifetime of unfulfilled destiny. Some develop into adults capable of healthy relationships, others develop into misshapen caricatures of human beings. Some take their place in society while others are stranded awkward and alone. Why do we think it any different in the Kingdom of God?

 

This article about natural growth originally appeared here, and is used by permission.

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Ray Hollenbach, a Chicagoan, writes about faith and culture. He currently lives in central Kentucky, which is filled with faith and culture. His book "Deeper Change" (and others) is available at Amazon.com