I work a lot with college students. I’ve met some of the most amazing people. It’s a delight–and gives me hope for the future.
Occasionally, I’ll talk to someone who is concerned that they aren’t growing in maturity fast enough. This notion can come from many quarters–more than I have space to address in this post. I love the holy ambition–the sense of restlessness–it’s a good sign that they have a growth mindset, want more of God, and are uneasy in the status quo. These traits I affirm.
Christian growth can present dramatically–in a moment, a flash of insight strikes and we’re never the same. We forsake old paths and never return.
Yet, for the most part, growth is gradual–so gradual it may be imperceptible to the one who is experiencing the change. This makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, when we were growing physically from children to adults, we couldn’t really perceive those changes in the mirror–even if all the adults around us would exclaim, “My, how you’ve grown!” Just because you can’t see your own growth doesn’t necessarily mean: 1) It isn’t happening; and 2) That others can’t see it, and experience it as rapid and dramatic.
C.S. Lewis has a very helpful metaphor in The Four Loves. He talks about progress (or growth) like being on a hike. Imagine yourself at the top of a cliff. You can see your goal–a village down in the valley. But, since it’s impossible for you to climb down the rock face, you must take the walking path–which is the long way around. Perhaps five miles out of your way. You’ll have to leave the cliff where you have sight of the goal–you’ll feel like you’re going backwards, away from the goal, when the whole time you are proceeding, exactly as you should, the shortest possible way.
So, if your path feels circuitous, backward, and most distressing, too slow–take heart. If you’re on the ancient and trusted pathways of grace, the Lord and the Church are with you. You’re growing more than you think you are.
Let us suppose that we are doing a mountain walk to the village which is our home. At mid-day we come to the top of a cliff where we are, in space, very near it because it is just below us. We could drop a stone into it. But as we are no cragsmen we can’t get down. We must go a long way round; five miles, maybe. At many points during that detour we shall, statically, be far further from the village than we were when we sat above the cliff. But only statically. In terms of progress we shall be far ‘nearer’ our baths and teas.C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 6.