I am a firm believer in lifetime growth.
The moment we stop growing, learning, and changing, we are as good as dead. Our sense of curiosity and wonder, our openness to change, these are the things that keep life (and faith) fluid, flexible and strong. Able to bend without breaking.
I have known people in their eighties and nineties who had the same sense of wonder and excitement as a young child. And I’ve known teenagers who carried all the jaded inflexibility of early rigor mortis.
I’d prefer to be in the first group. Wouldn’t you?
Of course, change and growth are difficult for many reasons. To continuously learn, to continuously grow, it’s a lot of work. You must constantly engage in the hard work of reevaluating the things about yourself and about the world that you once knew to be true. You are constantly absorbing and integrating different experiences and viewpoints, some of them painfully jarring, into your perception of how the world works. It’s overwhelming and humbling.
But to have faith and hope that stands up to questioning is a payoff that’s more than worth the effort, in my mind at least.
The problem is that besides these natural and internal obstacles to growth, we also get plenty of obstacles thrown at us from outside sources.
Sadly, it seems that the greatest obstacles to change and growth often come from our family and friends.
Why don’t you like to do xyz anymore?
That’s not what you said about that last year.
You can say whatever you want. But I know the real you.
Gently, and with the best of intentions, our friends and loved ones hem us in with walls of expectation. We have always been this way. As with their favorite restaurant, they have come to depend upon a consistent experience. They want us to be the selves they have always known. Our real selves.
We can’t really blame them. After all, who doesn’t want consistency in life? It’s a relief to have something to depend on in this chaotic, unpredictable world of ours.
But sometimes, God calls us to move in unexpected directions. He asks us to open ourselves to become something stronger, something deeper, something different from what we have been in the past. He calls us to explore new pathways, embrace new ideas, open ourselves up to new friendships.
And in doing so, we often end up leaving some of our cherished traditions and relationships behind.
We can always be sure that the people who God intends to remain in our lives will remain there. And perhaps they might see in our new path a calling to new paths of their own.
But sadly, there are many who are content to remain locked in the rigid walls of their old selves, never leaving, never changing.
They see our new growth, our changed selves, and they feel affronted. They take it personally. When we change our viewpoint or lifestyle, it’s often seen as hypocrisy. How can anyone trust what you say when your point of view keeps changing?
But in my mind, changes, revolutions, revisions, bring us closer to the truth.
So the more you’ve changed, the more you’ve learned, the more you’ve grown…it makes you more trustworthy. Because you have done (and continue to do) the hard work of reevaluating what you once knew.
And to me, that is the very opposite of hypocrisy. It is real faith.