My focus on growth may seem strange during this difficult season we’re in, but I believe that the best way to get through this pandemic is by growing.
My understanding of growth is simple. It’s the process of becoming who someone (or something) was created and designed to be.
There are many ways for us to grow during even the most-challenging times. We can grow by:
- Practising assertiveness and standing up for ourselves.
- Learning how to better manage our worries and stress.
- Taking risks, such as asking others for help and assistance when we need it.
- Developing skills and attitudes to help us live with uncertainty and change.
- Dying. That’s right. Sometimes death is the only way to grow. Jesus teaches us this paradoxical way of growth, meaning sometimes the best way to grow is by letting our sense of self, our assumptions, attachments, beliefs, attitudes, prejudices and self-identifications die, creating space for something new and life-giving to grow in their place.
Another way to grow is by learning how to rest. Really rest. Resting and growing are not opposites. In fact, resting is an essential part of the growth process. For example, the more quickly my teenage son’s body grows, the more rest he needs every night.
Resting isn’t taking a break from growing; no, resting is an essential aspect of the growth process. Just as exhaling is as important as inhaling to the breathing process, rest is as important as activity to the growth process.
When someone says they need a break or that they’re not getting enough down time, that doesn’t mean they need to stop trying to grow. What that usually means is that they are identifying an area in which they need to grow. For that person, learning how to rest and relax is their current “growth edge,” and that growth will not magically happen on its own. They’ll need to intentionally practise rest and relaxation.
It may sound silly, but many people don’t know how to rest and relax. I know more than a few. It will require discipline and hard work for them to stop producing and performing in order to rejuvenate and recharge. For others, it might be learning that binge watching Netflix, sports or the news every night is not the best way to rejuvenate and recharge their energetic reservoirs.
Many of us need to unlearn and relearn what healthy rest and relaxation looks like for the mind, heart, body and soul.
The truth is, you can’t grow without some down time, and sometimes that down time isn’t just a weekend off or a two-week holiday. Sometimes it’s a season. In winter, trees enter a state called dormancy. Where I live, this lasts for months. This season of dormancy is not an anti-growth state; it’s part of the growth process. Trees need these states of dormancy. Without them, their lifespan is dramatically reduced.
Sometimes we humans need a season of dormancy. Yet, our default response tends to be resistance. Resisting regular cycles of dormancy is detrimental to our growth and health in the long run. Learning how to enter and navigate a season of dormancy is not something many of us naturally understand and appreciate, and it will take intentionality and effort on our part.
In other words, it will take growth. Of course, dormancy is a season, not a lifestyle. The growth edge for so many people who’ve been hibernating emotionally, intellectually, spiritually or psychologically for years, is to wake up from autopilot and do something. Anything.
There are many ways to grow during this pandemic. Discerning where our current growth edge is might require counsel and assistance from others. But it doesn’t matter who we are, or what circumstance we find ourselves in, growth is always an option.
In the gospels Jesus routinely meets people going through far more difficult circumstances than many of us right now, and he always invites them to grow. His invitation to grow looks different for each person, but Jesus always invites people to become the people they were created and designed to be. And that is growth.
So where is your growth edge right now?
Troy Watson is a pastor of Avon Mennonite Church in Stratford, Ont.