Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What is spiritual growth?

I've always thought this quote from John Cobb was especially powerful. It's from his "Theology and Pastoral Care"...

"The work of God within us is to quicken us, to give us life -- new life, and more abundant life. Today we talk of the movement of human life toward its own enhancement and intensification as personal growth…It is always God who is the call to growth and the giver of growth. The growth occurs through the divine incarnation. The more we understand about life and growth, the better we can discern God at work within us and among us.

"Growth is never the simple addition of something new to what is already present. If it were, it would not be resisted so strongly. Instead, to add the new is to change the old. That does not mean that the old is simply wiped out or cast aside. That would not be growth but mere change. It does not mean that the old is transformed in the renewing of our minds. It must receive, quite literally, a new form. Because we identify ourselves with what-is, with what we have achieved, with what we already are, the opportunity for growth is always also a THREAT. We can let the not-yet transform us only by letting go of what we are. And we must let go of what we are without knowing in advance what we will become. Growth is not the working out of a pattern that we have planned for ourselves. It does not follow lines that we can predetermine, for it involves the emergence of ways of thinking and feeling that are new….To allow growth to take place is always a risk. This is why trust is so important. We cannot grow without surrendering the effort to control the future. But to surrender this effort is not to become passive, just to let the powerful forces of the world buffet us about. That would be the opposite of trust in God. That would be to let the world determine everything. That is the way of death. Christian existence is a life of constant decision in the context of the gift of God's presence; it is the continual choosing of life.

"When we think of our life with God in this way, the commitment to God and the sense of God's effective presence moves to the heart of the counseling situation. Counseling for growth is direct service of God. The counselor is observing God's working in the counselee, helping to remove some of the barriers to that working, and encouraging the tentative steps toward openness to life, and therefore to God, that have brought the counselee to seek help from a fellow human being. Pastors above all will know that they are at most midwives of God's grace. They do not cause the growth. It is not for them to predetermine where the growth will lead. They can counsel rightly only if they trust God. "


Jan said...

I really like this. Thanks, Katherine. I wrote about my friend Judy in my post today.

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