Today is the last day of school for Caro students (at least if they’re exam exempt) so it has me thinking about progress and growth that happens throughout a school year. At the end of the year, I have my confirmation students write a personal growth paper. This is their opportunity to tell me how their faith has grown throughout the last year. It’s also an opportunity for them to give me their opinions, reactions, or commentaries about my class-those can sometimes be humorous. I always find it interesting how much they have grown and the number of topics that we cover each year. For me it’s the same material year after year but for them it’s all exciting and new!
If I had to write my own personal growth paper it would probably look very much like my individual journal. In 1988, on our first anniversary, Cathy gave me my first official journal. Inside the cover she wrote:
Your life, as well as the experiences within your life, are extremely important to me. I would hope you also value your life greatly.
The purpose of this journal is for you to keep track of such important moments in your life. Use it to comment on daily events, good and bad. Use it as a prayer journal, or even as a travel log.
In time, you’ll find your journal an aid in reflection. It may even show you where God has been present in your life. If all else fails, it will help you to remember when you become old and your own memory fails you!
When I filled that journal and moved on to the next blank book I thought it would be a good time to go back and re-read what I had written over time. There were some monumental things like the birth of children, perspective shifting things like the first time I travelled to Haiti, profoundly sad things like the death of loved ones, plus also the moments of everyday life. It was interesting to me just how many struggles still seemed to be the same years later. Cathy seemed to be a prophetess in that my journal chronicled daily events, prayers, travels, and helped me remember as I got old.
So are you growing in your faith? I firmly believe that our relationship with God is either growing or dying, there is no staying the same. In theological terms (and what I teach those confirmation students) we refer to it as the narrow sense of sanctification. My Lutheran Cyclopedia states this:
In a narrow sense, sanctification is the spiritual growth that follows justification. By God’s grace a Christian cooperates in this work; through the Holy Spirit’s work faith is increased daily, love strengthened, and the image of God renewed. A believer’s good works are not perfect; but sins of weakness are forgiven. Sanctification differs in the same Christian at different times. God works sanctification only through the means of grace. The most comforting part of the doctrine of sanctification is that which speaks of the completion of sanctification in heaven.
Paul talks about this spiritual growth in Ephesians:
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:11-16, NIV)
Whether you write a paper about it or not (although I do highly recommend the practice of journaling) my prayer for you this day is that you would indeed be growing closer to your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.