But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
II Peter 3:18
On recent walks through the woods of northern Minnesota, my wife Rita and I have contracted a virulent strain of phileomycelium. As far as I know there is no cure for this “love of mushrooms.” I don’t mean a love of eating mushrooms, but a love or fondness for finding mushrooms where they weren’t there the day before. They mushroomed up overnight!
But watching these little fungi explode through the ground, and then be gone in a few days, has got me thinking about “mushroom spirituality.” By mushroom spirituality, I mean the expectation that spiritual growth and maturity can mushroom for us literally overnight.
Yesterday, as we came across a patch of mushrooms that we had not seen the previous day, reminded me of words I had read by theologian, A. H. Strong:
A student asked the president of his school whether he could not take a shorter course than the one prescribed. ‘Oh yes,’ replied the president, ‘but then it depends upon what you want to be. When God wants to make an oak, He takes a hundred years, but when He wants to make a squash, He takes six months.’ (quoted by Miles Stanford, The Green Letters)
Mushroom spirituality leaves an impression that spiritual growth and maturity can happen to us overnight. That’s the way that many books, DVD’s, workshops, and conferences are promoted. But John Newton, the great English churchman, author of Amazing Grace, and many other hymns, acknowledged slowness and process in his spiritual transformation:
I have been thirty years forming my own views; and, in the course of this time, some of my hills have sunk, and some of my valleys have risen: but, how unreasonable would it be to expect all this should take place in another person; and that in the course of a year or two. (Richard Cecil, Memoirs of the Rev. John Newton)
Once, when Chris Webb, then President of Renovare, was leading a conference for Water from Rock, he told me a story I have since found helpful in thinking about my own spiritual life. Chris is an Englishman whose father was an officer in the Royal Navy. One week his father took Chris on a sort of “take your child to work” cruise on the H. M. S. Exeter. One day Chris was allowed to go up on the ship’s bridge, stand alongside the captain, and put his hands on the ship’s wheel. The captain then directed Chris to turn the ship “one degree to starboard.” Chris said that he turned the ship “one degree to starboard,” but felt nothing happen. The captain explained that to keep on going in that one degree change of course would mean the difference between ending up in Havana, Cuba, and Savannah, Georgia.
What Chris’ story meant for me is that I might read my Bible and pray, or reach out to a needy person, and not feel a thing change in me. But if I will only keep going in that direction, the next day, and the next, it can be for me like the difference between Havana and Savannah! Make a small change in course of direction and stick with it! Just as Jesus taught, spiritual growth is a process; “First the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.” (Mark 4:28)
Thinking about real spiritual growth versus mushroom spirituality, leads me to at least three considerations:
- First, I must be patient with others in their growth and transformation. For all my friends seeking to follow Christ, doing ministry, going through counseling, working the Twelve Steps, and trying to get things together, I must be patient with them and love them.
- Second, I must also be patient with me. I want so much to grow and press on to be like Christ. I want to be all that God created and redeemed me to be! Today! And, I can get pretty down on me when I don’t show more growth, and faster. I must be patient with me, and love me.
- Third, I need to be patient with God. Yes, patient with God! He knows how much I want to grow and thrive. He knows how much I want to serve Him more effectively, and make a difference in the world. Why doesn’t God help me make it happen faster? I must be patient with God! He knows the reasons why mushroom spirituality doesn’t work.
Might not the Spirit of God be saying to you today: “Steady as you go!” “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Grace and peace,