Growth is a gift, but it can also cause grief

  • Saturday, May 25, 2019 1:30am
  • Opinion

Do you remember getting growing pains as a young kid? I felt mine in my shins in late elementary school on the school playground in Alaska. I was growing quickly and it hurt. I recently looked up growing pains and it says, “There’s no known way to prevent or avoid growing pains.”

Growth can hurt. It’s also a gift. Finally being old enough to get your driver’s license, saying goodbye to a child at college, a dance with a loved one at a wedding or leaving your place of work on your last day before retirement. Growth holds both gift and grief. Simon Peter, a central follower of Jesus struggled with this, too. There’s a sacred story that tells of Jesus asking Simon Peter if he could borrow his boat. He said yes and Jesus takes him out into deeper and challenging waters, with an invitation to throw his fishing nets into the water. Simon Peter responds with a rational explanation of why this is a ridiculous idea. “We’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing.” But he chooses to trust Jesus. There is net-breaking, boat-sinking, jaw-dropping abundance. In a weird way, fear is a natural response to abundance. Jesus responds with his ever-present: “Don’t be afraid.”

Simon Peter was invited to grow in a new way. It took a miracle to get his attention. It took a new challenging situation to cultivate a new season of trust in Jesus. We’re invited into similar adventures. Where is the One who made you inviting you to trust in a new way? Do you find yourself in deeper water than feels comfortable? Maybe you long for the simplicity of the shore. But Love continues to whisper you out into the depths of life. Your invitation is to reflect on the gift and grief of growth: What’s hard about growing as a person? It feels uncomfortable, disorienting and full of doubt. It may feel like the solid ground of the shore gives way to shifting currents of new depths. What’s meaningful about growing? It brings new energy, new questions and possibilities. What you thought would always be has permission to change. Maybe you won’t be stuck in this place forever.

There is grief and gift in growth. Why is it worth it? We say yes because there comes a point when it takes more effort to stay where you’re at than to expand and grow and become something new. At some point, you outgrow the clothes you love as a kid, you outgrow old ideas, ways of being, a home, a relationship, a job. It’s just what we do. And Love waits patiently out in the deep water for us to finally say, “OK, I’ll try to trust you.”

Last week, our 7-year-old daughter told me she’d like to go on her next class field trip without me as a chaperone. I could try to keep her little. I could follow her on every field trip for the rest of her life. But I would stifle and suffocate her growth. That would be more painful than just letting go and watching life burst forth through her. And when you do the work to allow God clear passage, you are being faithful, and God might just sink your boat with abundance. May we honor both the gift and grief of growth.

Jenny Smith is pastor at United Methodist Church. Her faith column runs monthly.

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