Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, How Does Your Garden Grow?
The first line of this old familiar nursery rhyme is probably not something we’ve ever seriously thought about. How do we know Mary was contrary? Was it because she intentionally avoided answering the question how by merely describing what grew where? Could this be a metaphor for our sad approach to personal growth?
For Christ-followers, significant personal growth is in reality spiritual growth. Most of us have been taught through our church experience that in order to accomplish growth, we need to read the Bible, and we need to pray. Yet, those two instructions open the door to a slew of additional questions that the church doesn’t necessarily address. How long do I need to pray – 10 minutes, 15 minutes? Should my prayer be for others, or can it be for me? (Isn’t that selfish?) Where in the Bible do I start? How much am I supposed to read? What am I supposed to be getting out of this??
If we read Psalm 25, by David, we discover that David had the inside track on spiritual growth. “Who, then, is the man who fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.” (v.12) David is challenging us to examine our relationship with God. Do we know Him as the Almighty God of endless, unfathomable power Who created all that exists? Can we juxtapose that characteristic with God’s consuming, unconditional love that would have Him pursue us like the Hound of Heaven? This reality should elicit awestruck wonder in us that David describes as reverential fear and respect. David’s son, Solomon, said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Pr 9:10) That knowledge begins with His written Word, where the only requirement is that we read with expectancy.
Effective teachers grab our attention and focus us through application. God the Father sent us the best in His Son, Jesus, Whose short stay on earth included the most dynamic, life-changing teaching in history. The Teacher, Jesus, also opened the door to friendship by laying down His life for each individual – an act that actually went beyond friendship. He sealed the relationship by leaving us the indwelling Holy Spirit, making sure we would never be without His Presence. It is the Holy Spirit Who speaks to us when we read scripture, giving us the instruction for personal growth and the steps to take. Through the Spirit, we also have conversation/dialogue with Him: true prayer. So, the student has the opportunity to converse with the Teacher for greater clarity. This kind of Teacher is worth drawing as close to as possible.
The goal then is to seek to know Him better; and the amazing benefit of that process is better understanding who He created us to be. The Apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesian church, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.” (Eph 1:17) That prayer is crystal clear. Do we want to receive badly enough to put in the time and effort?