The Long, Slow Process of Healing and Growth

The Long, Slow Process of Healing and Growth

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Pastor’s Article – April 2022 Tower Chimes

a man wearing a yellow running cap and running vest
Pastor Drew before his final run of 2020

This is a photo I took of myself on December 31, 2020. I sent it to my nephew (also a runner) who’d just given the running cap to me for Christmas. In the text I think I wrote something like, “Heading out on my last run of the year.”

It wasn’t long after I took this picture that I had to stop running on account of pain that I was starting to feel in my left hip flexor, the muscle used to raise one’s knee upward. While it didn’t hurt to run itself, I knew something wasn’t right whenever I had to lift my leg upward. It was painful in my front hip to put socks on, to put pants on, and to get into car (which involves lifting up my leg to bring it into the vehicle).

Not knowing the cause of the pain, at first I decided to simply stop running in order to give my hip a rest. My hope was that the discomfort would subside on its own. But after many months, it hadn’t. So, I went to my family doc who prescribed physical therapy. During the initial session with the physical therapist, it took her less to five minutes to accurately identify not only the cause of my injury and the corresponding pain, but shes also knew exactly what I needed to do for it to heal. She warned me, however, that even though my hip would heal, and I’d be able to run pain-free again, it would be a long time getting to that point. I was told that my type of hip injury heals very slowly.

Well, she was absolutely right. I’ve spent most of 2021 and all of 2022 so far going to PT twice a week. The good news is that the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is getting very bright and very close. I’d say my discomfort from lifting my leg/knee is 90% healed. I’m now incorporating certain practices into my rehab to prepare my body to begin running again, hopefully this spring.

This particular experience of the slow process of my body’s physical healing has been a reminder to me of the manner in which we grow (and heal) spiritually and emotionally. Spiritually, there is a “healing” of the soul which takes place instantly at the moment we say yes to following Jesus Christ. In that moment, the soul is made alive (born again) and God declares us to righteous. John Wesley referred to this particular work of the Holy Spirit as justifying grace. It occurs only once and transpires in an instant.

However, it’s at that point that the real “work” of spirit-healing begins. After saying yes to Jesus, we begin the slow-but-sure process of growing in faith and becoming more and more like Jesus. Wesley referred to this particular work of the Holy Spirit as sanctifying grace. It occurs daily—maybe even hourly—and transpires over the course of a lifetime.

My observation is that a few people have a visceral experience of that initial justifying grace, but for the majority of us, coming to faith in Christ is not accompanied by any awareness of the celebration taking place in the Kingdom of Heaven. Instead, we mark our spiritual growth over the course of years. And it’s often only by looking back and comparing where we are [spiritually] today to where we were then that we’re able to recognize the growth that’s taken place. The fact is, like my hip injury, it takes a long time for our spirits to be healed of the spiritual and emotional injuries it sustains from the ways of world. Attitudes take time to be adjusted. Beliefs take time to be realigned with God’s Word. Perceptions take time to be transformed into seeing the truth. Getting to the place of desiring God and the ways of God more than the things and ways of the world takes time.

seedlings sprouting from the soil
Spiritual growth takes place over a long period of time

So, yes, maturing spiritually take time, but what is vital to remember is this: growth does not happen automatically. Rather, in happens only when we’re intentionally working at it. My hip injury is an “injury” in the sense that it’s ligament damage caused by me overtraining, which forced my hip muscle to overcompensate for weak glute muscles. The ligament damage is reversable, but only through active and intentional strengthening of my glute and hip muscles. Without that intentional intervention, the ligament would remain injured and probably get worse over time. Likewise, spiritual growth doesn’t happen automatically. Spiritual maturity is the result of intentional intervention. Regular Bible study, regular Bible reading, regular prayer, regular worship, regular Christian fellowship, etc. In other words, these faith-practices—sometimes called spiritual disciplines—have to become a part of our daily lives in order to grow in [sanctifying] grace.

Have you incorporated some spiritual disciplines into your day-to-day life? If so, depending on how long you’ve been at it/them, could it be time to take it to the next level? For example:

  • if you’re a regular reader of the Upper Room, I’d wager my next paycheck that you’re spiritually ready to move to a devotional that takes you deeper and requires a bit more time and thought on your part.
  • if you regularly pray/give thanks before meals, but that’s pretty much the extent of your prayer life, I know for certain that your spirit would gladly welcome adding a time of prayer—maybe just 5 minutes at first—to your daily routine.
  • if you’ve been successfully following a Bible reading plan that has you reading 1-2 chapters a day, I bet it wouldn’t take a lot of effort to increase your reading time to 5 chapters.
  • if you’re someone who usually signs up for the short-term Advent or Lenten study offered by the church, but that’s the extent of your Bible studies, I can only think that you’d enjoy availing yourself of other courses and classes that are offered from time to time.

My hope and prayer is that in 2022, all of us will do what we feel God is calling us to do to grow in our faith. Next month, I’ll address the healing of the soul which doesn’t take a lifetime to achieve, but it requires of lifetime of diligence to remain as such.

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