Understanding Christian Growth

When I was a little boy, I thought God was this big man sitting up in the sky who performed magical miracles. I had gushy feelings about being loved by this God. I remember going to vocation Bible school in the summer, and having such a moving experience (only to flee from me within days). I loved seeing the graphics in my picture Bible. God was a good God, who I loved, even though I didn’t really know who he was. I had attachment to all these images of God.

When I was in high school, I began reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer and C.S Lewis. I had images of God, and still believed in most of them, but I had a lot of questions. I wanted to know what defined God. I reflected upon who God was and what it means for the world.

Over the past few years I have learned through reflecting and studying, I appreciate those images, but what I appreciate the most is that I have an inner awareness that God is working in and around me, and he is present. I know his presence is greater than my comprehension. I have learned to see him in other people (because they’re made in his image), I have experienced him in my suffering, I have begun to appreciate him in nature (because of his natural revelation), I have learned to appreciate a mysterious side that knows that he is at work, he is present, and he is working all things together for good. In Paul’s words, it is no longer me but Christ in me. I get moments of that every now and then. Mystery doesn’t dismiss logic but it supersedes. Experiences in your soul are like a minor trauma, you can’t completely make sense of them.

I think this is the natural evolution of faith. Faith, it seems, begins in a bodily way (pre-rational), then moves into my mind (rational), and manifests itself in my spirit (transrational). When I was a child, things didn’t make sense, but those images were how I connected and it was good. Each stage of faith does not exclude the previous one, but transcends and includes it. It allows us to fully experience God in body, mind, and spirit. Even today I worship in my body (which is why I am still emotionally moved by God), I worship God in my mind (studying theology and spirituality), and worship God in my spirit by opening myself up to his presence. We weave in and out, and each stage serves a beneficial purpose.

All of these include an element of service, because what good is faith without deeds? When you understand that there are bodily needs, you move towards people’s needs there. You move towards the homeless and the hungry. When you understand the needs of the mind, you move towards those in despair, and those who are seeking. Last, you move towards people finding wholeness. You help develop spiritual practices and disciplines to find the Christ in them. Each one is important and needs to be met.You are able to serve all people, on all functions.

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5 thoughts on “Understanding Christian Growth

  1. Mike, thank you for this. It’s beautifully written.

    I can relate. It’s taken a long time for me to learn how to “weave in and out,” as you’ve said, of how different parts of me worship, without getting stuck in any of them for too long, and causing the others to starve. But it’s a beautiful, freeing thing.

    As I’ve reflected on my own spiritual growth, I’ve seen it as a constant letting go of the things that I learned about God yesterday so that I can learn new things today. And it doesn’t mean that what I knew about God yesterday wasn’t true. It’s just that what I am learning today is more true. It’s so strange but awfully exciting … when I can remember to rest into it.

  2. Mike Friesen says:

    Those are words of wisdom right there. Thank you!

  3. lamehousewife says:

    Great reflection…

  4. Ed Jones says:

    Excellent essay and insight. Very well presented and covers a deep area of understanding. Thank You, a pleasure to read.

  5. Brian says:

    Wonderful. Your testimony reflects God’s greatest commandments to us. To love Him with all our heart, mind, strength, and soul. And to love one another as we love ourselves.

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