Ornament of Grace

Ornament of Grace
December 12, 2016

Growing in 2017

Don’t we all love a newborn baby? Whether boy or girl, there is just no other creature that is so sweet, so soft, and just so very precious as a brand new, hours-old infant! We women enjoy discussing their traits and observing which family members the child “takes after,” etc. While it may not last long, one of my favorite things about these dear little humans is their “new baby” smell. Before too long, this distinctive scent gives way to other, more compelling, and not so sweet smelling “odors!” No matter what, these dear little ones are gifts and very special creations from God!

It is a wonderful thing to watch these wee ones grow! In amazement, we see them begin to put on more weight and become more aware and responsive to their parents and their surroundings. “They grow so fast!” is a phrase every new mother hears often! This is the truth. Little ones do grow fast, and they should, because growth is a normal part of life!

Why is it then, that growth, in many applications, is only attached to the very young? Why do we think it is somehow “normal” for older adults to get to a place where we don’t grow anymore? And furthermore, we don’t even expect to grow! (No, no, I’m NOT talking about our waistlines here!) Does it seem uncommon to hear a 50- or 60-something adult talking about experiencing emotional, spiritual or some other form of personal growth in their life? I don’t know about you, but I am NOT okay with the idea of never seeing or even expecting to see, any growth in my life at every age! May I remind you that “growth” means “life”? Yes, it also involves change, but the amount of life and vitality for every individual lies within their growth patterns, or in some cases, the lack thereof. Too many Christians I’ve known live unfulfilled, boring, negative, self-focused (There’s a BIG connection between those last two traits, by the way!) joyless, unproductive lives! Growth is not always comfortable, but it is the path to joy, productivity and fulfillment! Growth is a choice worth making.

I wonder if, before the New Year, 2017 dawns, there are others besides myself who may be concerned about their level of personal growth. Perhaps there are some areas in your life that need to be challenged, with the goal of seeing changes and new growth this next year. By God’s grace, may we all learn new things, change some of our attitudes and mindsets and/or establish better habits. I believe “all things are possible” with the Lord (Mk. 10:27).Honesty is essential to growth, so first, I should take honest inventory. I hope you’ll join me in asking yourself these questions…

Do I have a bad temper? Am I lazy? Do I enjoy talking about others, being critical and finding fault? Do I console myself that I am not a “gossiper” because I don’t actually “say” it; I only “listen” to the gossip? Can I identify the ways listening to gossip harms my walk with the Lord and my relationships with others?

Am I usually inclined to “take the easy way out?” When I have hurt someone, or knowingly or unknowingly made a mistake, do I take responsibility for my error and take steps to “own up to it” and make my wrongs right, whenever possible? Am I constantly accumulating emotional “baggage” in my relationships, because I react first and think later? How easy is it for me to say, “I am sorry. It was my fault. Please forgive me,” and really mean it? How often do I do it?

Do I hold grudges and keep mental “tallies” of other people’s offenses? (People who cannot let go of the mistakes of others have a pride problem, and usually end up immersed in anger or regret.) Do I take my burdens to the Lord, confess my sin, and ask His forgiveness? Accepting God’s forgiveness and then making things right with those we’ve wronged (It’s called restitution!), allows us to move on and grow from the experience.

Am I a procrastinator? Do I do this because it appeases my conscience, making me feel like I’ve addressed an issue without ever changing my behavior? Do I have trouble defining the legitimate priorities of my life? Do I understand the various seasons of life? Am I surrendered to the tasks that God has given me to do at my current stage of life? Defining my priorities can be hard, and requires me to identify a “good” priority against the “best” priority.

Am I materialistic? Even if I don’t have much money, do I place too much value and satisfaction upon certain things I acquire? Is the idea of living within my means something that I constantly chafe against? Do I have a bad “credit card habit?” Do I harbor jealousy against people I know who seem to have a lot more money and means than I do?

Do I base my personal sense of value upon how I perceive others view me, or can I “get past that” and focus on whether what I have done pleases the Lord? Am I truly able to accept responsibility for my actions or do I blame others for my responses? Does my “self talk” involve phrases like: “That’s just the way I am” or “I can’t help it. It’s not my fault. I don’t deserve that.”

Do I look to the Lord and His Word for my happiness and acceptance, or am I constantly seeking another person to make me happy? Do I wear my feelings on my sleeve, expecting things from people which are unattainable and unrealistic? Am I an emotional “hermit,” or am I willing to reach outside my “world” with the sole purpose of blessing others with my time, gifts, and my life? When was the last time I made a new friend? Do I tend to “freak out” when something extreme happens, or is my first response to take my burdens to the Lord and allow Him to work things out?

Do I serve the Lord because I’m worried about what others will think of me or do I do what I do out of a sense of gratitude for what God has done for me? Do I read His Word and seek His Face daily in my devotions and prayer life? How do I react to constructive criticism? Am I teachable and willing to allow the Lord to use other saints to help “perfect” my walk with Him? Am I perceived as being patient or impatient?

Do I label people and treat them according to my preconceived ideas? Do I seek to edify and encourage others or would observers see me as “all wrapped up in myself?” Do I enjoy new challenges and learning new skills? Do I thank the Lord regularly for specific things, people, material possessions, etc., in my life? How often do I choose to exhibit joy, thankfulness and cheerfulness, even when my mood is quite the opposite, at that moment? Do I understand the value of a smile or simple greeting to a stranger in the midst of a busy day?

On a daily basis, is it a foreign concept for me to think of myself as “His” servant? Am I flexible and willing to allow the Lord or others in my life to rearrange my schedule to suit needs for which I may be unaware? Do I really want to change and allow the Lord to make 2017 not only different, but better than 2016?

I realize this “list” is by no means complete. Admittedly, this kind of self-inspection can be painful and prone to failure. Perhaps there may even be a lady reading this who thinks living in a “rut” is much preferable. Certainly each one of us is entitled to our own opinion but personally, I want my life to count and if that means allowing the Lord to probe, convict and change my heart, then so be it. I desire to make a difference in the lives of my family and friends, and even in the lives of strangers! I seek to add value to people, making them better because they know me! I desire to be a blessing to others! The way I see it is, I only have ONE life and I’m only given so many years to live that life! I want to make the most of it by allowing the Lord to use me to influence, encourage, impact and bless other people for His Glory!

If you agree, may we make a point to prayerfully read over this list many times, asking God to teach us, stretch us, and greatly use us in this New Year? He has lives He wants us to impact! Let’s Grow Together in 2017!