At church this morning, the topic of the sermon was growth.  The text was Genesis 32:22-32, in which Jacob wrestles with a supernatural being and receives a blessing.  The pastor said that we, too, receive a blessing as we grow through struggle, but many of us prefer to stay in the same place because it’s familiar and comfortable to us.

I’ve long been leery of the words “grow” or “growth” for personal development.  As I’ve said before on this blog, whenever people tell me that I’ve “grown”, they usually mean that I’m living more according to their standards.  Moreover, I’m sick and tired of people grading my growth.  Why can’t they just accept me, rather than judging me?  In more than one setting, I’ve heard people say, “Well, if you don’t get outside of yourself and move out of your comfort zone, how will you grow?”  But, if I’m comfortable where I am, why would I want to grow?  Why do I need to grow?  People then say, “If you don’t grow, you die.”  What the heck does that mean?  I can biologically continue to exist, even if I’m not changing a bunch of stuff!

The pastor made some of these points that get on my nerves, but he also said something that highlighted why growth is important: he said that old ways of thinking may not work for us, especially in times of crisis.  And the pastor also gave examples of a lack of growth: being resentful rather than choosing to grow from a bad situation.

I once heard a saying that “If you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.”  So, if I find that what I’m doing is a continuous dead end, then it’s good for me to learn other ways of doing things and of looking at situations, and to have people encouraging me along my path.  Does that mean that life will be rosy?  Far from it.  But it may be better.  And I may be better.  Plus, as the pastor said, a significant part of growth is learning how to cope in times of crisis.

I got to see some of this illustrated in the church service itself.  There was one lady who has been looking for a job for months, and we have been praying for her to find work.  Well, she finally got a job!  She has had to cope through uncertain times, but it is good that she had people rooting for her and praying for her.

Regarding resentment, what can I say?  I have it.  Christians have told me that resentment hinders my growth.  I’m not so sure, because it does enable me to sympathize with others who have been wronged and have resentments, rather than judging them because they’re not happy happy, or because they are unable to perform a self-labotomy and deny themselves the natural feelings of anger when they have been wronged.  I wonder what the opposite of resentment is.  Is it feeling nothing?  Is it compassion and love even for the person who wronged us?  I would like to have the latter.  But, like Captain Kirk on Star Trek V, I still need my pain!  It is what drives me to pray to God, to seek inspiration, and to have compassion for others.  At the same time, I have to admit that hating others does not feel right, for, in my case, that does come from self-centeredness and flawed expectations I have of how the world should treat me.  It also does not put me in the mood to treat others with love and respect.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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2 Responses to Growth

  1. I really like this 🙂 I loved Captain Kirk’s monologue, he was being so painfully honest about his pain, his anger and even his hate. He was honest and still capable of going beyond and doing the right thing.


  2. jamesbradfordpate says:

    That is a good movie. I’ve been getting into the Star Trek comics. The ones I’m reading now are set in between Star Trek II and Star Trek III.


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