Recently, I have been talking about “growing up” in the Lord; becoming spiritually mature in Christ. I started this blogging journey in November of 2015. It was then that I earnestly put forth an effort to focus on God and my relationship with Him. I started my true spiritual journey about three years before that. (Even though I was saved when I was 12 years old.) So, for the last six years or so, I have been spending more and more time with God. And, I am so thankful and grateful to be making forward progress in my relationship with Him. But, I have to be honest with you, making God a priority in my life has been a slow process for me. I am sharing this with all of you because I think a lot of you can relate.
As I have mentioned before, even though I was saved at age 12 (or so), I didn’t really have much of a relationship with God to speak of. I went to church each Sunday for years. For a good while I went on Wednesday evenings as well. I celebrated Christmas and Easter each year with my family. I prayed when I wanted something or when something bad was happening. (Basically, when it was convenient or as a last resort.) Other than that, I didn’t think about God much. Or, if I did it was in a more abstract sense. I don’t think it ever occurred to me back then that I could have a personal relationship with someone who wasn’t flesh and bone. I mean, I knew He was real, but so is the president of the United States. I knew of both of these guys and believed in them both, but didn’t have a relationship with either one of them. (If that makes sense.) Also, being a kid, I think things like that are hard to comprehend anyway. Plus, I had other things on my mind, like playing and school and friends.
As an 18-year-old, I headed off to college. I went to Georgia College in Milledgeville which was about 90 miles away from my home and I lived on campus there. And, sadly, what tiny relationship I had had with God before then, soon dissipated into nothing. Once I was away at college, I no longer did the one thing I used to do every week; go to church. I lost the one real connection (if you can call it that) that I had had with God. College swallowed me up and took all my time. As a theatre major, I was taking classes and working on productions. We worked on shows all during the week and on weekends too. That meant I rarely went home. And, I was ok with that. I was busy learning new things and making new friends and becoming “me”, or at least so I thought. And, I was content. (Again, or, so I thought.)
After college, I went to graduate school at Oklahoma State University. I continued to study technical theatre there. I loved Oklahoma and really enjoyed my time in Stillwater. God entered my mind every now and then, thanks to working on some different plays there. But, again, He was not a priority. I was just floating along in my life without giving much thought to God.
Actually, as I type that out, I realize that what I have done most of my life is just float along. (Up until recently.) I can compare my life to being in a canoe in a river without a motor, a paddle, or even a rudder. I never gave much thought to what I was doing or where I was going or ultimately, what I wanted out of my life. I have never really had any life-long goals, unlike most people. (At least, I think like most people. Most of my friends had goals for their lives. Many of them have dreamed of being married and having kids or attaining a certain career. I never had any of those.) I just floated along in my canoe, letting the waters take me wherever they wanted. For most my life, I have just been along for the ride.
I took the path(s) of least resistance that seemed to make the most sense at the time. I went to college because that is just what you did. I studied technical theatre because I enjoyed it and my parents drilled into my head as a kid that I should find a job doing something I enjoy. And, I have moved from job to job as an adult ever since then trying to find my place and contentment. (I refer you back to my post “Job Journey”)
At any rate, all of this to say that bit by bit, slowly over the years, I have been changing and growing. All of this is just to point out, that sometimes, things take time. Sometimes they take a LONG time. However, I am making forward progress. Little by little, I am growing into the person I want to be.
In the meantime, I am trying my best to be ok with this slow pace. If you know me at all, then you know that I am maybe the most impatient person in the world. I am the opposite of Job.
And, maybe you are like me. Maybe you feel like it is taking a really long time to get to where you are going, to become who you want to be. And, I am here to tell you, that is ok! God’s timing is perfect. Let Him take care of that part. Just make sure you keep doing your part. Keep moving forward. By keeping God first, you and I both will get to where we are going.
Are you watching the Olympics right now? I am a huge, huge, huge fan of the Olympics! Every evening my eyes are glued to my TV as the events from PyeongChang are shared with the world. I get so excited every two years when the world comes together to compete in these games. (I realize that the Olympics are every four years, but having both the winter and summer Olympics, we get to experience them every two years.) And, I love them both equally. There is just something so magical about the Olympics.
Now, when I say that I am huge fan, I do NOT mean that I know every sport or every athlete or even get to see everything or understand it all. I am not a fan in that sense. The reason I am a huge fan is two-fold: 1) I am a sports fan. (I enjoy sports of all types in general.) and 2) The Olympics are about the only time and place that I know of, where the world comes together as one.
Let me say that last part again. The world comes together as one. If you check out www.olympic.org, you can see the list of countries that have National Olympic Committees. I just counted them and there are currently 206 countries who actively participate in the Olympics! This blows my mind! Reading through this list, I am more than a little embarrassed to say that there are a lot places that I have never even heard of. (**As I hide my head in shame.**) These countries either have athletes currently competing, that will compete in the future or who have had competed in the past.
If you do watch these games, or any Olympics, you will witness some of the most extraordinary, yet simple acts of human kindness and love. To me, this is the very heart of what the Olympics are about. Sure, there are exceptional competitors whose talents and skills are astonishing, who are the best of the best at what they do. That is why they are here in the first place. Sure, all of these sports that are played are just a game. But, if you take a closer look, you will see that there is so much more to the Olympics than meets the eye.
Being a good sport, team player, and showing compassion for others take front and center stage at the Olympics. But, what is even better than that, is that most of these athletes help each other and lift each other up, no matter what country they are from or what “team” they are playing for. It doesn't matter what your nationality is. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is. It doesn’t matter what language you speak. At its most basic level, it is simply people caring for, rallying around, and helping other people, period. Read this wonderful article by Brandi Awad and you will see exactly what I am talking about. Perhaps this is where the term “Olympic Spirit” comes from. (Also, if you are as tender-hearted as I am, grab a tissue before you read this article and watch the video links in it.)
Even if you don’t see any grand gestures like the ones highlighted in Brandi Awad’s article, you can still see athletes hugging and congratulating each other at each event. It is evident that these athletes genuinely care about each other and are just happy to be on this world stage.
This is why I love the Olympics so and get so excited about them! It is always a refreshing and much needed break to be able to observe good things happening around us. Right now, the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics are that breath of fresh air we can all use. The closing ceremony takes place this Sunday, so there is still time to get in on the action. I urge you to watch, if you haven’t. You will be glad you did!
Also, just as a funny aside, I have to share this little story from Chicago. A TV station there used a graphic for the Olympics that had P.F. Chang’s on it instead of PyeongChang. My husband, who may be the biggest fan of P.F Chang’s on the planet, thought that was pretty funny. I thought so too. Humor is also always much needed in our world today. And, I will happily take it where I can get it! :D
In my last post, I wrote about how we need to grow up in Christ. And, there is definitely more to say on this subject, so here I am, writing more about it!
When you were a kid, do you remember having pains in your legs? I sure do! I have a high tolerance for pain, but I clearly remember my legs hurting so much sometimes as a kid, that I would be in tears over it. I would tell my parents that my legs hurt and they would tell me it was just growing pains. And, that basically meant that there wasn’t anything they could do. (And, there wasn’t.) It was just something I had to deal with. In my head I could picture myself getting taller, and because I wanted to be taller, I was ok with the pain. I realized that that was just a part of life. (Looking back, that is a pretty great lesson to learn early on in life.)
And, in much the same way, we will experience growing pains as we grow in our spiritual lives as well. Because, let’s face it, to grow means to change. And, change is hard, ergo growing is hard. In the Bible we learn in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; The old has gone, the new is here!” When we believe in God and give our lives over to Him, we become a new person, a new creation. We change. We are no longer the old person we used to be.
But, I must point out something very important. Just because we are a new person, it doesn’t mean we are instantaneously changed. Well, ok, it does--but it doesn’t mean that we magically become a new person all at once. At least, not in terms of how we think and act. As the old saying goes, “old habits die hard” and it will take us a while to break these old habits. The fact is, it just takes time and intentional pursuit; discipline.
When we become saved, it really just means we are at the beginning of our journey. A seed has been planted inside of us; one that changes our way of thinking and enlightens us. But, it is up to us to care for that seed, feed it, water it, and nurture it, in order for it to grow. And, just like a tomato seed we plant in our garden, we can’t expect to plant the seed and then five minutes later have a full-grown tomato that we can eat. It will take some time before we start to see that tomato grow. The same is true for the growth in our spiritual lives.
Note, however, that we are the ones responsible for our own growth. It is up to each of us to spur our growth and start reaching upwards. (It is up to us to grow up.) This seed of God that we have within us has the potential to produce amazing fruit. It is the fruit of the spirit and it is the fruit by which others can see Jesus through us. (See Matthew 7:15-20) But, bearing this “good” fruit is not easy. Growth is involved, change is involved, pain is involved.
To reach our full potential and be the people God wants us to be, we must change our outlook and the way we think and the way we do things. We need to see life and other people through the eyes of God, not our own. We need to live our lives as Christ would; including seeing and treating others as Christ would see and treat them.
This is awfully hard stuff, especially when you realize that you need to do things like love your enemies. (See Luke 6:27-32) Because, as the Bible rightly points out, it is easy to love people who love you. It is extremely difficult to love those who hate you or who treat you badly.
So, if we want to grow in Christ and grow to be more like Christ, we have to start doing things that are hard, things that are painful. As Needtobreathe tells us in their song Hard Love, “It’s not enough to just feel the flame. You’ve gotta burn your old self away.” We have to become a new person in Christ. We have to be disciplined and embrace the pain that comes along with this change.
I truly believe that, as Christians, this is the best course to take in our lives. This is the narrow road. This is the narrow road that leads to life! Don’t you want life? I know I do. As Matthew 7:13-14 tells us, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
I am so glad you are here! I am Erica Strickland, a girl who loves God. My goal here is to simply share His love and light.