Recently I found some old pictures of myself from my younger days – my pre-priesthood/pre-marriage days. Nothing is more fun than looking through those old pictures (especially with your kids who think the world wasn’t created until they came into being) and remembering what life was life back in the good days of the late 1990s (aka, the Stone Ages for all you younger pups).
Things were so different back then. Life was slower and simpler. We used to chat with our friends using our mouths, not our keyboards. We used to play outside and drink from the hose and we all lived to tell about it. We used to read newspapers and magazines and books! And get this…back in the 90s, MTV actually played music!!!!
Times certainly have changed quite a bit since then. But as much as the world has changed in 15 years, the thing that struck me the most from those old pictures is how much I HAD CHANGED.
I added about 12-15 pounds (all muscle of course). I lost the glasses (thanks to laser eye surgery) and I added a beard instead (thanks to priesthood). I am still fighting the good fight against baldness, but there is definitely some weakening of the troops in the back.
Overall, I changed quite a bit on the outside. We all do. But how about on the inside? That is what I asked myself: am I still the same on the inside or have I changed/grown in any noticeable way?
The truth is that we all change over time – both on the outside and also on the inside (our intellectual abilities, our emotional stability, our spiritual development). You are not the same person today that you were 5 years ago or 1 year ago or even at the start of this year! You have changed and regardless of whether you want to or plan to, you will continue to change as life goes on.
That’s life. It forces us to grow and change constantly. The real question is: are you growing on purpose or by chance? Are you planning your growth or allowing your growth to just happen to you?
In other words, WHAT ARE YOU AIMING FOR? A wise man once said, “If you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time.”
St. Paul once wrote a letter to his disciples in the city of Philippi and he told them what they should be aiming for regarding their “inside” growth:
“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ” Philippians 1:9-10
1. We need to grow in DISCERNMENT
Discernment = learning what’s right and what’s wrong in God’s eyes. The world will tell you that there is no right or wrong, but that is nonsense. As you grow, I pray that you grow in learning what things are pleasing to God and what things aren’t. That is what really matters. Never stop learning what pleases God!
2. We need to grow in KNOWLEDGE
Not just random knowledge or worldly knowledge, but knowledge of who God is. As in any relationship, knowledge comes when we spend time together and when we open up to one another. God opens up to us in His Word and we open up to Him through prayer – sincere, heartfelt prayers. Never stop growing closer to God and learning about Him!
3. And finally, we need to grow in LOVE
Everything in life is worthless without it. 1 Corinthians 13:2 says it best: “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
We are all going to change this coming year and every year for the rest of our lives. Let’s make sure we’re aiming to change in the right things – in the things that God desires for us. May He help you (and me) to grow in discernment, in knowledge and in love.
For discussion: what practices can you recommend to help in these three areas of growth?