Blogger: Jess Newton
Isn’t comfort wonderful? Being cuddled up on the couch with a soft cozy blanket watching a movie? Don’t even get me started on comfort food. Warm homemade apple pie with vanilla ice cream is absolutely the will of God. But the truth is that comfort will never take us to higher or deeper or better. I know, I don’t like it either.
In this new season as an online pastor and a sudden homeschooling mother of three, I wouldn’t say “comfortable” is at the top of the list of words I would use to describe myself. Most of our lives have changed dramatically and without warning. It has been a lot to swallow. Even though I’m a pastor, I am first a card-carrying member of the human race, a regular person outworking my humanity daily. I believe that if I’m going to help anyone, including my children, husband or church goers through anything in their lives, including the COVID-19 pandemic, I should probably lead myself through it first. My platform has never excused me from my personhood before God. I sense that God cares much more about my personal growth than my professional growth. It takes vulnerability and a willingness to grow as a person and it takes pushing past comfort.
This begs the question: as adults, how do we grow? Luke 2:52 says that Jesus grew in wisdom. I want to be a woman who grows in wisdom. Because I am a person who also happens to be in the people business as a pastor, I am very interested in topics within psychology and counseling/therapy. I’ll get my hands on any book, article, podcast or TV show that can help me understand myself and others. Recently I came across a few sources that outlined the process of growth for adults and I believe it is in line with what the Bible says. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way!
The first way we can grow is to be more self-aware. Self-awareness is knowledge of our own character, feelings, motives and desires. There are spiritual and practical things we can do to grow in this way. Psalm 139 verses 23 & 24 (TPT) says,
“God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me. Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares. See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on, and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways — the path that brings me back to you.”
Here we see David asking God to help him become more self-aware. We can ask God the same thing. When we read the Bible and pray, we become more self-aware. Our spouses, friends, pastors and bosses can also help us to be more self-aware by holding mirrors up to us and helping us see ourselves, flaws and all. Personality tests (like the Enneagram, MeyersBriggs, Five Love Languages) can also bring awareness to both our strengths and weaknesses.
Secondly, receiving feedback is a Biblical form of growth. We can ask God and those we are in close relationships with to help us become more self-aware, but do we actually receive their feedback? When they hold the mirror up to us and help us notice something in our teeth (or soul!), do we trust their feedback enough to humbly accept it and decide to work on that area? There are times I have resisted feedback because I didn’t trust the person’s judgment or I spiraled into shame, thinking not that I made a mistake, but that I was a mistake and was therefore unlovable. I have also resisted feedback because I wondered what I would lose by changing. Even though I was aware I could be better, there were unknowns that came with changing and I preferred the comfort of familiarity. I encourage you — press through! Here’s what the Bible has to say about receiving feedback in Proverbs 15:31-32 (TPT):
“Accepting constructive criticism opens your heart to the path of life, making you right at home among the wise. Refusing constructive criticism shows you have no interest in improving your life, for revelation-insight only comes as you accept correction and the wisdom that it brings.”
Lastly, in order to grow, we must tolerate discomfort. In a physical sense, if I go to the closet to put on my bathing suit from last summer and realize it’s a little tight, I’ve received some feedback from the fit that perhaps I enjoyed my comfort food too much. I may then go to the scale for some more feedback. Instead of blaming the dryer for shrinking it, I could choose to receive the feedback I’ve gotten. From that point, if I want to fit into the bathing suit again, I will have to tolerate the discomfort of exercise and healthy eating. In the same sense, if we want to walk into all God has for us, we will have to grow by having self awareness, receiving feedback and tolerating discomfort in our souls. Yes, it takes hard work. It can be painful but we will either have the pain of discipline or the pain of regret! The choice is ours: will we wish we were different or work to be different? One leads to a wishbone and one leads to a backbone. Personally, I need all the spine I can get. Let’s grow with the flow!