Mistake #9. They neglect their own spiritual growth. Read the Word. Read it to your kids if that’s the only way you can get it. Pray. Pray while you’re doing housework if necessary. Don’t neglect the assembly of believers. Getting together with other believers not only encourages you but you have the responsibility to encourage them as well. Heb. 10: 24b-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the DAY approaching.”
For the most part, I equated spiritual growth with performing certain spiritual disciplines. And not just accomplishing certain spiritual disciplines but carrying them out in a certain way. I must wake
up while everyone’s asleep (for that is ‘my’ best portion of the day being fully rested and therefore attentive) then read my Bible and pray for a certain length of time. It would be a plus factor if I could journal what I learn from these daily “quiet times”. A regular method of committing chunks of Scripture to memory would be an extra bonus. And there could be more done outside the home.
Well, when I found myself nursing an infant every two hours throughout the day and not even aware whether it was night or day, I was discouraged that I couldn’t keep up with my “spiritual growth”. The same was true when I found myself nursing an infant in the same manner while attempting to homeschool two girls when it was still day.
I first heard the gospel when I was 16. From then to my early married life, I sat through tons of bible studies, participated in yearly youth camps/retreats, and went about studying the Bible on my own. I realize though that it is one thing to know information in your head. It is quite another to know when to apply and to actually apply truth in your life.
Young as I was, too, I easily confused my relationship with God with a romantic relationship in the context of church. It was only when this relationship ended in heartache that I began to have a deeper grasp of what an intimate relationship with God was like. When God saw it fit for me to eventually marry, I saw this as His bringing me to my husband’s life. Family life brought about different circumstances than what I experienced when I first came to Christ. And relocating several times meant always being severed from the church family that I knew.
As I look back though, I can’t exactly say I didn’t grow at all even if I didn’t always strictly follow the only formula for spiritual growth that I knew.
Here’s a portion of what I wrote in our 2003 family newsletter, a year after our third child was born and the older ones were 5 and 6:
For Winnie, in the midst of having her hands full with keeping house, homeschooling the girls, and taking care of the baby, the Lord has made it clear to her that though she may be investing her time and abilities in things that the world does not value much (as it does not earn her dollars nor can she add it to a resume), that she is where He wants her to be at this time.
…as the Lord prodded her, Winnie, too, was able to begin to meet with some women as they studied God’s word together in the area of contentment. These women have encouraged her as she saw how the Lord worked in their individual lives and taught her what the calling of discipleship entailed in her own life …
After having Benjie home most of the time for the four years he was self-employed, being left alone with the kids most of the day took quite some adjusting for Winnie. The routine, the desire for adult conversation, or the need to just get out caused weariness now and then. On the brighter side, Benjie’s going off to work daily allowed Winnie and the kids to establish more structure in their home school as well as their days in general…
Home schooling as well as parenting did not always go smoothly. There were weaknesses in academics as well as in attitudes that needed to be worked on. Winnie and the children learned from each other as they: struggled through child C’s desire to write creatively and need to be more gracious in allowing others to do better, focused on improving child A’s math skills and giving his/her free spirit some guidance, dealt with child D’s need to be more gentle with siblings, and worked on strong-willed child B’s need to recognize authority. Winnie’s appreciation of each child’s individuality enabled her to meet their needs accordingly even if it meant going out of her own comfort zone.
And then a year after coming back home to the Philippines in 2010:
There have been a lot of things to adjust to as we tried to settle the family once again. Health was a major trial issue this year with —‘s brief hospitalization due to asthma and —‘s recent branchial cleft remnant surgery. We have learned to be more accepting of our circumstances, to stand together as a family amidst challenges, to see the good even in difficult situations, and most of all to trust more in the Lord who is the Physician of all physicians since His healthcare system is the best in the world.
God’s word throughout the day as I was cleaning the dishes or folding the laundry. I learned that multi-tasking doesn’t have to be applied only to housekeeping or homeschooling but to activities that brought me closer to God (and therefore spiritual activities for me). I memorized verses with my children. We discussed God in the midst of everyday life. We brought Him up when we read our botany book or appreciated a work of art or listened to beautiful music. Learning and reading were activities that brought us closer to and in awe of Him. I cried out to God when days were frazzled, frustrating, or just wonderful! As a result, we were able to encourage others (hopefully) as a family even as we became recipients of others’ encouragement.
Just as there are a variety of approaches to homeschooling, it seems there are different pathways to growing spiritually. Just as teaching my children means having to take into consideration their individual learning styles or personalities, cultivating intimacy with God can occur in an assortment of ways. Lots of times, one way worked in different seasons of life as well. Sure there are ingredients that will always be there. The importance of God’s word in our lives cannot be stressed more. His unfathomable grace and mercy cannot be understated. Our call to holiness by the power of His spirit cannot be set aside. But as people, it is natural for us to want to find a sure formula to spiritual growth. The danger is when we get so engrossed trying to tick everything on “the list” these activities become just that. Something we have to do for the sake of saying we do them but really unsure whether they are producing in us Christlikeness or a better version (God’s version) of ourselves. Sometimes, being able to do everything on the list just makes us more smug and relying on ourselves thinking we have made it and everything is alright.
Quite the opposite, as I spend more time in this life, I become more and more aware of the greatness of God’s love, and in contrast, the misery of my own wretchedness. And as I cling to Him for His grace and respond to His mercy, I find myself wanting to spend more time with Him in Scripture and in prayer, yielding to His Spirit so that I can live my life through the lens of the truth of His word and not on my own deceitful heart. When I’ve got it in this perspective, I feel like I don’t have to try harder (and therefore feel frustrated when I fail). I have to “try softer” as I surrender and not block the flow of the rushing river of the Spirit in me.
Note: Terms/phrases such as “better version of me” or “try softer” and other concepts are borrowed from “The Me I Want to Be” by John Ortberg.