Growth has always been a viable metaphor for the spiritual life. If it is the growth of a plant from seed to tree or of a child moving towards adulthood, the idea of growth has always been applicable to the spiritual life. I have a nine year old daughter and a ten month old baby boy. Both of them are at completely different developmental stages, and yet someday they will both be adults. The spiritual life is much the same way. We may be just beginning the growth cycle of a spiritually maturing being or we may be well on our way. Either way the steps of development may be similar for all of us, just like childhood development is similar for all children. Here it is important to make a distinction. I say it is “similar” for all children; for everyone develops and matures along their own lines becoming a diverse group of adults. The spiritual life follows suit. We learn to pray, but our prayers will be different; we learn to serve, but choose different ways to be servants in life. There is a similarity to growth which creates a united community in shared commonalities, but our differences foster diverse communities.
The point I would like to move towards is that growth brings change and maturity which include new challenges. My nine year old knows how to walk, my ten month old will learn that skill in the next few months. My nine year old does not need to relearn that skill, she knows it and can move towards the next challenges of running or biking. Spiritually speaking, growth is similar. Once we learn a spiritual skill, we don’t have to keep going back and relearning it. It is time to put that skill to use, to develop it further and allow it to lead to other challenges where we need to grow. If you have mastered the discipline of prayer as intercession, then perhaps it is time to explore prayer as meditation or discernment. If you have mastered serving as an usher, perhaps it is time to challenge yourself to serve as a reader.
A good place to start is knowing where you are. Take some time to make an inventory of your spiritual skills. Ask the following questions: How am I using these skills for my community? How can I further these skills as I grow? What challenges in growth am I facing now?
Another exciting exercise is to create a spiritual autobiography where you can track your growth in the spirit. Make sure you list special moments such as baptism, confirmation, reaffirmation retreats or service projects, that have had an impact on your spiritual life. This autobiography can then be used as a tool to see trends, movements and growth in your own spiritual life. Perhaps it will open you to see ways in which you have been moving that you did not recognize before.