But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
II Peter 3:18
On recent walks through the woods of northern Minnesota, my wife Rita and I came down with a virulent strain of phileomycelium. As far as I know there is no known cure for this “love of mushrooms”. I don’t mean a love of eating mushrooms, but a love or fondness for discovering them and watching them spring up.
But it was discovering these little organisms, that mushroom overnight and are gone in a day or two, which led me to ponder mushroom spirituality. By mushroom spirituality I mean the expectation that spiritual growth and change happen overnight.
Yesterday as we discovered a patch of mushrooms that were not there the previous day, I thought of words I had read by the American theologian, A. H. Strong:
A student asked the president of his school whether he could not take a shorter course than the one prescribed. “Oh yes,” replied the president, “but then it depends upon what you want to be. When God wants to make an oak, He takes a hundred years, but when He wants to make a squash, He takes six months.”
As I ponder mushroom spirituality I realize that in some preaching, teaching, counseling, and mentoring, we are suggesting, if not demanding, that spiritual growth and transformation happen overnight. We are implying that all that is needed is just a little more determination and dedication, along with some special formula, or latest book or DVD, and overnight we become spiritual oaks.
Once when Chris Webb, President of Renovare, was leading a conference for Water from Rock, he told a story that I thought helpful to our thinking about spiritual growth. Chris is an Englishman whose father was an officer in the Royal Navy. Chris’ father took him on a sort of “take your child to work” cruise on the H.M.S. Exeter. One day Chris was allowed to go to the bridge with the ship’s captain and get his hands on the helm to steer the ship. The captain instructed Chris to turn the ship “one degree to starboard”. Chris said that he turned that one degree, but couldn’t feel any change in direction. Then the captain explained that to keep going on that one degree change in course would mean the difference between going to Cuba and going to Nova Scotia.
So I read my Bible today and pray, and not much seems to happen; but I’m making that one degree turn in the course I’m headed. If I do it again tomorrow, and the day after, and for days to come, it can be like the difference between Cuba or Nova Scotia. “Steady as she goes,” our Captain commands us. “Steady as she goes.” Genuine spiritual growth and Christlikeness most often grow from the little things we do, and keep on doing each day.
One day the British Prime Minister Disraeli made a brilliant impromptu speech before the House of Commons. Later in the day a friend told Disraeli how much she enjoyed Disraeli’s extemporaneous talk and said it had been on her mind all day. “Madam”, admitted Disraeli, “that extemporaneous talk has been on my mind for twenty years.”
Spiritual growth and maturity are a process, a gradual process, just as Jesus said they would be: “first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head” (Mark 4:28). That’s why Jesus and His Apostles had so much to say to say to us about patience and perseverance. Those are hard words for our fast food and nanosecond culture. But there is no instantaneous spirituality.
As I have thought about Biblical spirituality versus mushroom spirituality, I have come to three conclusions:
First, I need to be patient with others in their growth and transformation. For all my friends seeking to follow Christ, doing ministry, going through counseling, and working the Twelve Steps, I must be patient with them.
Second, I need to also be patient with me. I want so much to grow and press on to maturity. I want to be all that God created and redeemed me to be! Today! I can get pretty down on me when I don’t show more growth, and faster. I must be patient with me.
Third, I need to be patient with God. Yes, patient with God! He knows how much I want to thrive. He knows how much I want to serve Him better and make a difference in the world. Why doesn’t He help me make it happen faster? I must be patient with God.
In the meantime, “Steady as she goes.” Just as the Apostle Peter says in today’s Scripture text: Let’s keep on growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ! Let’s keep on praying, meditating on His Word, gathering to worship, giving the cup of cold water in His name, and telling the world about Him.
Grace and peace–Tim