It was winter in Maryland. We sat at an old kitchen table taking a breather from cleaning out the family home. We had just eaten our share of crab cakes made with my mother-in-laws special recipe.
As conversation bounced from subject to subject, my husbands brother sat and watched analyzing our conversations and answers. And then the question came, “What is different about your life, and how do I get there?”
Well, hmmm…simple answer, “God.” How do you get here? Grow. Follow. Allow God to change you from the inside out. Remain open to His leading. Give up self. Uh, yeah, that’s about it.
Not sure we put it that bluntly, but pretty close. I remember literally watching him shut down. Change? I’m expected to grow and change? Thanks but … don’t you think it’s a lot to ask someone to grow? I finished “growing” in my twenties, thank you very much.
That’s the first time I understood that there were adults out there who somehow believed that at a certain age or station or season, that they were done growing. Yes, there is an age where we have to come to the realization that we are now grown up, or in turn must grow up. But, hello, that doesn’t mean we’re done.
Growing up and continuing to grow are two very different things. If we don’t continue to grow, to better ourselves, to expand our understanding – what’s the point?
We really do hit a time in our twenties when we think we are grown, know everything and “own” our adulthood, even though it may be an illusion. At the time, my brother-in-law in Maryland was in his his late 40’s, not his 20’s – but whatever.
For most of us there comes a time when we realize, we don’t know everything, we don’t have answers, we aren’t done growing and, hmmmm, we’re actually pretty raw in our completeness.
I hope that moment happened for you, or will. I hope you realize you are NOT done. You do not know all. God’s not done with you. In Richard Bach’s book Illusions, he says “This is a test to see if your mission in life is compete, if you are alive, it isn’t.” Same can be said for your growth.
Is there one moment that changed everything? A moment that changed the trajectory of your life and moved you to where you are today? Is it from the good moments – the day you left for college, the day you came home, the new job, the new house, the wedding day, the birth of a child?
Or is it the transformative days when life turned on a dime – a father dies, a marriage ends, a mother dies, a job disappoints, a family breaks, finances crash? Did life change from the days that lift you up or the days that crushed you down but still brought you forward? Or maybe it is quite simply all of them combined…the sum of the parts make up the whole.
I can honestly say my life ended the day my mother died. I can equally say my life began. Until my 34th year I travelled a pretty direct course. The path was straight albeit a few bumps and potholes along the way. I went from high school to college, from college to a job in my field of Engineering. Dating life was a weird and wild roller-coaster, but that’s a story for another time. Or maybe not. Some stories should never be retold.
But then diagnosis came. Caregiving happened. Loss was experienced. And then emptiness, void, loneliness. My mother was my friend, my champion, my greatest supporter. Void.
And a new journey began. The first few years as I took over her business, I still knew everything … cocky, confident, on fire. I went about conquering the world. Seeking and to a large degree obtaining success. Doing my life, my way.
Richard Bach, also said in Illusions, “Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself.” He’s wrong. Yes, I believe we are called to be who we are, to both find yourself and be your best, but we are commissioned to love others. [“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
I don’t think I knew this until I “met” God in my 40s, some 10 years after my mom died. But it was her passing that started my feet on the journey. Loving others. Like everyone? I am supposed to love everyone? Yikes.
As a people, a society, we lean toward seeing the worst in others and the best in ourselves. To truly love others as ourselves, we must reverse this…seeing the brokenness in ourselves and the best in others. We must meet others where they are without judgement, without projection, without expectation.
When I have set expectations for how people will be, how they will perform in my life, how they will somehow meet my needs, I leave no room for growth, challenge, new experiences. People will tend to let you down if you set your own expectations and not allow room for their uniqueness. When we open ourselves to embrace the remarkable and sometimes unusual personality types of others, we open ourselves to growth. God continues to work on us … daily, intentionally, specifically. All of us – without exception.
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t learn something from someone else. Not a day, that I don’t find something new about myself through the actions, conversation or experiences of someone else. Of course, every day I ask God, “What do you have to teach me today?”
My life is arranged around the things I am pursuing. Where God guides me. Transformational moments in my life may have placed my feet on the path, but God directs me everyday and moves people into and out of my life … teaching, challenging and expanding my understanding. God created an interesting and complex world of individuals, each with their own tapestry of life experiences.
I pray that each day you allow them to teach you, grow you and in turn move you closer to Him.
God, what do you have to teach me today? Where will you grow me?