It is illustrated all over life.
Growth takes time.
A huge tree starts out as a tiny seed.
It doesn't just spring up out of the ground one day a full grown tree.
The seed has to be planted in the right conditions – good soil, the right amount of sunlight and water – and given time in order to one day end up with a tree.
And what about people?
Having carried six little lives within my body – five are currently in my care and one is with Jesus – I have experienced first hand how they each started out as tiny, tiny bits to eventually seemingly growing before our eyes as they dig through the fridge.
Growing from a tiny life within to a grown person takes time.
I know this and accept that growth takes time in the physical world, so why have I not made that connection in the spiritual world?
I am starting to see that I believed that spiritual fruit – things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc. – should just suddenly appear in my life (or in others' lives for that matter).
No wonder I get frustrated with myself for not being more loving or joyful or patient.... growth takes time. But I wasn't allowing for time and the right conditions to produce growth.
I just want the fruit and I want it now!
But, alas, that is not how God works in our lives.
I am currently reading "Dancing with My Father" by Sally Clarkson.
In the chapters I read yesterday and this morning she addresses this reality.
"Spiritual training takes place over a long period of time – from baby to mature adult; from immaturity to godly wisdom. Learning to dance isn't an instant accomplishment; it's a lengthy process of learning (and sometimes relearning) to let go of these things that bind us in order to be free to hold the hand of the Lord, as He is the source of joy. He will teach us the dance, but we first must empty our hands so that we are free to hold His hand."
"God is not so much concerned with my immediate gratification as He is with the development of my soul."
"God doesn't grow us in character and joy quickly. He has a long-term perspective for me. He sees the training process over a period of years and is always seeking to move me ahead in my character."
Growth comes through tests and trials that God allows in our lives.
And growth takes time.
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. -- James 1:2-4
While we are going through these tests and challenges, it is usually painful or at least not very enjoyable. But going through them and learning in them and from them is worth it.
I was thinking about the joy that comes from passing the tests and how this is illustrated in marriage.
My husband and I have been married for almost 17 years.
Not as long as some – as I think of my friend who had been married for 61 years when he went home to be with the Lord – but long enough for me to see the beginnings of the fruit of joy that comes from our growth together in our relationship.
We had no idea when we were first in love and dating what deep joy would eventually come into our lives as we learned to live and work together as one flesh. I can only imagine that the joy and love will deepen and grow as our children grow and move on to their own lives apart from us.
These fruits are part of a faithful marriage.
But they do not come without time, tests and work.
It may seem as we look at others' lives that they may have it easier than we do. We many not want the trials or tests that God has allowed in our lives.
"Often it seems we would rather have another life – any life – thank our own. Somehow we think if we lived a different life, it would be easier for us to grow in faithfulness and spiritual character. Yet it is in accepting today with all of its issues, in accepting God's will and training grounds that we learn the secret of joy in His presence. It is in being faithful to our own set of tests that we become mature and fitted for the ministry He has called each of us to accomplish. "
"Our integrity as people of God will come by walking the path that He has given to us. We will not have this fulfillment, satisfaction, or joy if we compromise our ideals and resist the tests that God puts in our pathway." -- Sally Clarkson in "Dancing with My Father"
Thankfully, we do not have to walk this path alone, nor do this work in our own strength.
We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us. -- Colossians 1:10-12
Yes, growth takes time, but it is so worth it.