a christian perspective on the world today

A Leaf-Changing Experience

I have always admired people who know how to take care of plants. I remember that as a young girl, my mum bought me a cactus after I begged her to buy me a plant of my own. There was something fascinating about the idea of growing something, putting time and energy into loving it, watering it and watching it flourish. How hard could it be? I said to myself. After all, cacti were supposed to be the easiest plants to take care of.

Unfortunately, my hopes of keeping this cactus alive were soon shattered as I had left it on the windowsill for several months without watering it. Unsurprisingly, it shrivelled up and died. I remember being sad, but my mum wasn’t shocked. I had, after all, neglected to water it, fertilise it or move it into the sun when needed. Now as I sit in my office, I have several beautiful (but fake) plants decorating my space. While they look amazing on the outside, I know deep down that there is nothing that can replace the sense of achievement of having a real plant that is flourishing in your care.

We all want to experience growth, to have the satisfaction of watching something bloom in our care. Whether that be relational, professional, mental or even physical growth. Often, we focus so much on growing in these aspects of our lives that we forget about our spiritual growth. Yet when we focus on growing spiritually, many of those other aspects grow as well.

Nursery rhymes
Imagine that this world is a nursery and that we are all plants. It is our relationship with others, our family, friends and co-workers, among other things, that makes us grow. Each relationship begins as a seed and as you get to know each other, your relationship strengthens. Sometimes you even start to pick up each other’s quirks. With the right care, you will find yourself growing with that person into beautiful plants.

This is exactly how a relationship with God works. The more we spend time with Him, the more we mirror His character and become like Him. I can imagine that as we become closer to God, He must also feel a sense of achievement as He sees us flourish under His care. Some of you may have just started (or have thought about starting) journeying with God and are like little seedlings almost ready to burst out of the ground. Others have been on that path with God for a little while and are beginning to bloom. It’s important to remember that it doesn’t matter where you are compared to others. Spiritual growth is a personal journey and will look different for each of us.

Watering the ground
What does it mean to grow spiritually? I believe spiritual growth means to become more like Jesus. When we plant a seed, we don’t just bury it in the ground and walk away, expecting it to grow by itself. We must take the time to water our seed so it can get the essential nutrients it needs to grow into a healthy plant. When we take the time to learn more about Jesus through prayer and reading the Bible, we receive the nutrients we need to grow spiritually.

Growth starts with us recognising our need for change—not just a change of scenery but life transformation. For example, Jesus can enable us to see ourselves with new eyes. We might start to pick up on parts of our behaviour, lifestyle or even thoughts that need changing for the better.

Jesus was the ultimate example of what it means to be a human—just as humans were originally designed to be. He lived a perfect life, despite facing the same challenges that we face and His life was lived in constant connection with God, His Father—showing us the importance of doing the same. This is why we must also look to God (1 Peter 2:21) to help us live as a new person, different to how we are used to.

During the winter, it is common for plants to shed their leaves. This means they spend less energy, conserve moisture and allow harsh winds to blow through their branches—putting less strain on the plant. The process of shedding leaves is beneficial and allows room for new leaves to grow. In the same way, when we seek God, we also start to shed our old habits, values and lifestyle to make room for a life that models His (John 15:5-8). True growth is a gradual process and as we accept our need for God, our lives may not change right away—but don’t be discouraged!

It’s important to focus on the fact that we are always in the process of spiritual growth and though at times we don’t get it right, God doesn’t stop loving us. All we need to do is admit our mistakes, and we will be forgiven (1 John 1:9). Even our missteps and shortcomings can become opportunities for growth. Plants need water, fertilisation and sunlight to grow but I would like to suggest several key elements that we need in order to create the right environment for us to grow on our spiritual journey.

(Colossians 4:2)
Just as our human relationships can’t survive without communication, neither can our relationship with God. Prayer is the best way to speak to God. When we focus on the good things that Jesus has done for us in answer to prayer, we will find ourselves able to trust Him with our decisions, knowing that He will take care of us.

Meditating on the Bible
(Psalm 119:105-107)
The Bible is the ultimate guide for us when navigating this life. Reading it and dwelling on what it says is a great way to learn the story of Jesus and gain a better understanding of who He is and how He wants to transform our life.

(Hebrews 10:23-25)
Another important aspect of your spiritual journey is putting yourself in the right environment to grow. Jesus put His faith in action through service and ministry. We can strengthen our relationship with Jesus as we spend time with other people who believe in Him. This will strengthen our relationship with both Him and them (Hebrews 10:24,25).

How do we know if we are growing in the right direction? God’s presence will manifest in our lives by the way we treat others with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22,23). As we bloom, others will stop to look at us and when they see God’s beautiful character reflected in our leaves, they will have a better understanding of who He is and how He can work in their lives.

Growth in Jesus doesn’t end there. God is the ultimate gardener and He is constantly working in our lives, pruning back the branches, cutting the dead leaves and shaping us to be more like Him. The more we strengthen our relationship with God, the closer we become in resembling His character. Are you ready to grow? If you want to experience the transforming power of God in your life, I want to encourage you to take “a leaf of faith” and be open to Jesus’ invitation to “come and see” (John 1:39).

Kymberley McMurray is the communications officer for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia. She writes from Melbourne.

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