The woman was determined to repurchase the home where she had raised her kids. The minute the realtor let her in she went immediately to a closet and opened the door to find the pencil-mark timeline still there. Each mark a memory- dates and ages chronicled on the frame.
The scene in the television show struck a familiar cord with me. My daughter just turned 28 and I had been going through photo albums pulling out pictures of her at different ages. When I saw her as a toddler with her “Shirley Temple curls” and roly-poly legs I remember thinking, “ I wish she could stay this age forever.”
Which is, of course, a crazy thought. What parent in their right mind would want to halt their child’s growth? And then it occurred to me how each stage of growth was accompanied by a corresponding loss- the loss of security blankets-the loss of friends-of innocence. Maybe we would halt their growth if we could spare them some pain. Maybe we halt our own growth as adults to spare ourselves some pain.
But what if our long-term growth actually depends on winning seasons of short-term grief?
Growing by definition means you’re moving past- leaving something behind. Sometimes that leaving comes with grieving. The key, however, is not to stop in the loss. After all if you’re not leaving something behind, you’re not moving. And it’s possible if you’re not moving, you’re not making progress and you are at risk of stalling.
Sometimes I think it would be great if we could have a pencil mark growth chart for our spiritual development. A timeline of marking moments accompanied by the age we crashed through a growth gate.
My journal has become my timeline. I’ve kept one now for more than 5 years and I’ve found it invaluable for tracking my highs and lows- my wins and losses- my joys and pains-my growing and my grieving. Each time God has prepared me for the next season, I have had to leave something behind- things like rhythms, relationships, comforts, and even flawed beliefs. In fact, He wouldn’t let me go to the next season without separating myself from things that had marked my past but could not make my future.
So think about starting your growth chart today. Begin by asking yourself a few questions:
What’s the last thing God told you to leave behind? Move beyond?
Have you done it?
What could be waiting on you if you would grow past the grief?
Remember, you really don’t want to stay this age forever!