Every Friday morning, we take our three kids to gymnastics class. Since school is normally in session at that time, the gym is wonderfully quiet with only the classes for toddlers and pre-schoolers. During the holidays, however, hoards of kids are sent to gymnastics camps that take over the gym and marginalize the little ones to dusty mats in the corner. Friday was one such day.
It was Bryan’s turn to be with Alexa in her parent-tot class, so I watched everything from the mezzanine. There were about 200 kids of all ages in the gym, participating in simultaneous classes corresponding to their abilities. I had a fascinating view of how kids mature in gymnastics over the years.
In one glance, I could see small kids learning to jump with two feet, elementary school kids learning to do cartwheels, middle school kids learning to do back handsprings, and high school kids learning to do fancy balance beam flips I had only seen in the Olympics.
This scene made me reflect on the varying maturity levels in the Christian community. While we all look like adults when sitting in church, our varying spiritual maturity levels are not unlike the visual I had of infants on trampolines interspersed with pre-Olympic athletes.
The apostle Paul even used the spiritual infant analogy in his first letter to the Corinthians, saying, “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but worldly – mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it…” (1 Corinthians 3:1-2)
Christianity is not a passive belief system to get us into heaven. We are called to mature in faith throughout our lives.
2 Peter 1:3-8: “…Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (emphasis mine)
Increasing measure – that’s the concept of spiritual maturity. We are not granted instantaneous Christ-like lives the minute we believe in Jesus as our Lord. We are responsible for growth.
That said, the concept of spiritual maturity sometimes seems ambiguous. Where do you start? What should you do? How will it make a difference? I can’t begin to do justice to these important questions in a simple blog post, but I was inspired by the scene at gymnastics to propose three simple ways to move toward a more inspired and mature spiritual life in 2013.
1. Add something new to your faith.
Last week my kids got to try the gymnastics rings for the first time. It was a new piece of equipment for them, but it marked the beginning of further development in their gymnastics lives. They came home with a refreshed enthusiasm for going to class.
Similarly, there are numerous ways to add a new dimension to your faith. For example:
- Pick a spiritual topic of which you don’t have much knowledge and find a book to read on it.
- If you’ve never actually read the Bible, select a plan (Google “Bible reading plan”) and find a good study Bible to get started.
- Try a new spiritual discipline, such as fasting, meditation or journaling.
I added two new things to my faith in the last couple of weeks, both of which have profoundly impacted me. I read the book, “Slaves, Women and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis,” and was blown away by how much I learned about cultural contexts in the Bible. I’m about to finish the book, “Journeys of Faith: Evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Anglicanism,” and have literally been forever changed by the perspectives I gained.
2. Improve on something existing in your faith.
Each week at gymnastics, the twins practice the balance beam. They can both walk across the high beam alone at this point. If that’s all they do on it week after week, however, they may get more comfortable with that skill, but they won’t continue to develop beam proficiency. They need to continue to improve.
We can continue walking the high beam over and over without doing anything to further our spiritual maturity. It will be comfortable, but it won’t lead to the spiritual life for which God designed us. Consider ways you can improve what you’re already doing. For example:
- If you’re praying occasionally but not regularly, commit to doing it daily.
- If you regularly read the New Testament but don’t have a good grasp of the Old Testament, start an Old Testament study.
- If you go to church regularly with your kids but don’t spend much time applying what they learn at home, choose something this month to emphasize outside of church.
Something I’m working to improve on is committing to a scheduled devotional time. I’ve started getting up 15 minutes early to read the Bible and pray. Having a scheduled devotional time is helping me be more focused.
3. Fix something broken in your faith.
Each time Kenna does the vault, she runs up, stops before the vault, walks up the ramp, then jumps. She has done it this way so many times that she now thinks that’s how the vault works. She’s stopped trying to fix her method because it’s become her normal.
I am humbled by the number of things in my spiritual life that aren’t working right but that I don’t take time to fix. They become like spiritual furniture pieces that become a de-facto part of my spiritual environment. Arrogance, a quick temper and impatience are just a few that come to mind.
Spiritual brokenness could include:
- Character challenges
- A defunct prayer life
- A prolonged absence from church
- Habitual sin
- A lack of biblical knowledge
Rather than accept the broken parts of our spiritual lives, we need to 1) notice them and 2) pluck them out. Identify one thing as a starting point and make a plan to fix it. I am starting this process by committing to praying daily for help with patience.
What comes to mind for you as you read these three possible categories of spiritual maturity? What stands out as something you could begin work on today?