So looking back on my mental spiritual growth chart and those of friends I have had the pleasure to see come to know love, I realized that the “spiritual plateau” is a recurring theme. Just before the plateau is a genuine desire and longing to see more of God and know about him. But at the plateau we consider ourselves “mature” in the sense that we know the basic character of God, how not to treat things legalistically, how to complain in our heads “I know this already,” and how to categorize others into the not-as-mature-as-we-are category (yup, we’re just that mature). But I think the biggest indicator for me was thinking that so-and-so’s teaching didn’t have a lot of “new” insight to offer me about myself or Jesus.
I am guilty as they come with dwelling in that spiritual plateau, especially right as I entered college. Reflecting on how I went from the spiritual plateau to where I am now, I realized there were some pivotal internal transformations that had to occur for me to continue on my growth. I’ll outline them here briefly but go into more detail in subsequent posts because each one has been a complex, joint journey.
1. Nurturing a submissive spirit – I think “submissive” is a dirty word especially in a post-modern, girl-power society, but submission is not simply doing what you are instructed- that’s blind ignorance. Submission is choosing to trust someone who is fully on my side, acting for my good out of pure love, and then acting on that trust by following . It also means being humble enough to ask (in the midst of the situation) “what are beneficial things from this experience,” instead of being quick to criticize or grow impatient.
2. Feeling a discontent in where I was: This aspect was only beneficial when it was partnered with a spirit of submission. My discontent with where I was led me to read more books, meet people from different walks of life (i.e. charismatics), and engage with God in ways that I was not used to (i.e. liturgy, hymns, spiritual disciplines). My discontent led to me understanding the largess of God in his people, through His Word, the world, and the Kingdom of God.
3. Understanding my own sin: There is no point in having a savior if I didn’t feel that I need to be saved or know what I was exactly being “saved” from, so as God reveled to me more of my sin and how it manifests my life (by understanding sin nature – or heart motives if you’re familiar with Pastor Min), I could see a greater fullness of God’s saving grace. “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sign reigns in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5). This journey has broken my conception of sin as convict-pray-fix-new and done. It looks more like convict-pray-wrestle-renewal-repeat… As much as I’d like to fix everything at once, brokenness cannot fix brokenness like the blind leading the blind, but fortunately, the Holy Spirit can. And the process, although long and arduous, is the perfect path of refinement until we have as much Holy spirit working in us as we can.
So to all those feeling that plateau or climbing up from it, take heart! Although I wouldn’t be too quick to say that we are ever “off” it, there is hope when we can at least genuinely recognize where we are.