Remember how exciting it was to be in kindergarten? We spent a good chunk of the school day with Dr. Seuss, the classroom was outfitted with building blocks, sand tables and playhouses – and many of us were even treated to Nap Time!
But as the school years continued on, those things gradually faded away without our fully realizing it. But suddenly, we woke up one morning and found ourselves in a sterile, orderly, all-business environment dominated by quadratic equations and Shakespeare; of taxonomic nomenclature and irregular French verb conjugation. I think all of us, at one time or another, have concluded the following:
Growing up kinda sucks!
That’s been a bit of an undercurrent in my spiritual life lately. I feel like I’ve moved past the glorious, novel, wondrous world of kindergarten and entered something a little less enjoyable. The revelations and epiphanies that were pretty commonplace in the first steps of my Christian walk are fewer and further between these days. Goosebumps are much less frequent visitors; I feel less inspired to write Disciplehood entries. Discoveries of those nifty surprises hiding in plain sight in Scripture readings are dwindling in frequency.
Is this what happens when you graduate from Christian Kindergarten and move onto the lower elementary grades? As we progress in our walk, do all of the efforts to make learning fun fall away until we’re left with nothing but the bare curriculum?
That’s not what’s supposed to happen, is it?
Jesus’ life, death and resurrection pave the way for us to have eternal life, which we’re told begins now, not after we die. In John 10:10, Jesus describes this life as a life lived ‘more abundantly’ (KJV) or ‘to the full’ (NIV) or ‘more and better life than they ever dreamed of’ (The Message). If we can fully connect with that eternal life, we can be filled with joy, peace and love – regardless of what’s going on around us in this temporary, temporal existence.
So why, as I mature as a Christian, am I finding Christianity less fulfilling, not more?
Perhaps I’ve just answered my own question. Maybe the fact that I’m finding it less fulfilling is ipso-facto evidence that I’m not truly maturing as a Christian.
‘I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.’ – 1 Corinthians 3:2
I’ve heard that passage many times before, and often felt relieved it didn’t apply to me, but now I’m not so sure.
Is it possible that I haven’t actually graduated from spiritual kindergarten – that, in fact, I’m flunking out because I’m too focused on the bells and whistles? And in that case, perhaps my Teacher has lovingly moved me to the Resource Room, where I won’t be so distracted by toys and games, so I can actually learn the rest of what I’m supposed to.
I’ve picked all the low-hanging fruit that comes naturally for me – worship, fellowship and ministry – but I never seem to find time to climb up the ladder to reach discipleship, stewardship and mission.
Maybe I’ve reached the point that the Bible isn’t hard to understand, it’s hard to do. (I’ve heard that quote attributed to Mark Twain, but was unable to find confirmation of that online). Intellectually, I know that a Christ Follower serves his community – not just his church; that he introduces his friend Jesus to his other friends (and if he doesn’t have friends who don’t know Jesus, he makes some!); that he surrenders his finances to God and doesn’t merely give a portion of his surplus.
But knowing these things is one thing; doing them is another. I can’t seem to get past the theoretical in any of these areas. I keep expecting God to change me on the inside so that I’ll want to bear fruit from these trees – becoming a better evangelist, mission man and steward as naturally and gradually as I became better at worship, fellowship and ministry. Or to change my circumstances to remove some of the earthly barriers that get in the way of meaningful progress on these fronts.
But maybe while I’m waiting for God to do these things, He’s waiting for me to do the same. And as the President of the United States (Morgan Freeman) said to a reporter with a scoop (Tea Leone) in 1998’s Deep Impact, ‘it may seem like we have each other over the same barrel, but it only seems that way…’
It may appear that God is holding out on me, but really it’s more likely that the reverse is true. As the saying goes, ‘if God seems distant, who moved?’
Unfortunately, I don’t have some pithy, neat and tidy conclusion to this exercise in navel-gazing. I’m as unsettled on the issue now as I was yesterday morning when I started typing. But at least I have a better understanding of the problem, and the knowledge that the solution is simple. Not easy, but simple.
So what am I going to do about it?
Peace be with you.