~ by Sr. Mary Theresa Rozga
"Do you think I am growing?" This is a question I often have posed to me as I companion people on their faith journey. Each time it is asked I find myself smiling. How preoccupied we, Americans, are with productivity and growth! We need to see concrete results of our labors before we will be convinced that our efforts have been worthwhile.
Spiritual and personal growth are not easily nor immediately quantifiable. We mistakenly think that God will love us more if we are better -new and improved, as our advertising world would say! I truly believe that God cares more that we are engaged in the journey toward growing in relationship with God and others than where we actually are on the journey.
We tend to look for concrete results of our growth. God looks at the desires of our heart more than our bottom line. Often times our desires outpace our accomplishments. I am reminded of St Paul's lamentation: "I cannot even understand my own actions. I do not do what I want to do but what I hate" (Rmns 7:15). God is pleased with our attempts and probes the depths or our hearts rather than the bottom line of results. Often we need to be gently reminded that God is much more patient with our process of growth than we care.
So, we start the stopwatch as we engage in the process of growing. Sadly we do not realize that God does not "time" our efforts to grow. We do not understand that in God's eyes we all get a gold medal just by being willing participants in God's life of grace. We all win. God does not grace just the best and beautiful. We have a God who has a special love for those of us who struggle (Lk. 15:3-7)
Fortunately spiritual and personal growth is not based solely on our own efforts. I tried for years to make myself perfect. I put considerable time and effort into improving myself. Although there was some growth I could always find areas that needed more work. I was never satisfied (Sound familiar?)
2 Corinthians 3:18 reminds us that we are being transformed by the Spirit into the image of Jesus Christ. God's grace does the transformation within us; we need to be willing partners in this creative, growth-filled process. Grace, the self-communication of God, is a free gift given to us. It is a precious tool that we need to humbly embrace on our journey of growth and transformation.
Just because we do not immediately see the growth does not mean it is not happening. I am reminded of this each spring. Right now the courtyard here at the retreat center is bursting with spring blooms: hyacinths, tulips, daffodils, and crocus. A month ago there was bare ground and empty spaces where now there are obvious signs of growth and new life.
Often our growth is unseen by us until someone else sees our "fruits." This is because our vision of our present reality is myopic. It is usually only when we look back over the past year(s) that hindsight can help us to see where the change and growth have occurred in our life. Faith invites us to trust that God is present and actively engaged in transforming us even when we do not see any evidence of growth.
We are a work in progress. The masterpiece of God's loving grace is unfolding gradually on the canvas of our life. Our call is to be eager cohorts with God in our journey of growth. Throw out the stopwatch and enjoy the goodness of your life as it unfolds!