“I don’t read spiritual books, only the Holy Bible.”
That was my mantra.
When I graduated from high school back in 2009, a dear friend and beloved sister in Christ gave me a book called, Completely His, by Shannon Ethridge. I never told her my mantra, and I read 50 pages into the book before the cross bookmark got stuck around that page 50 mark. And it remained stuck there until a couple weeks ago.
Seven years. It only took me seven years to finish reading that book. That seven years seems to be a symbol of my spiritual growth rate; I am a slow learner and a slow grower. Though I am fairly tall in physical height, I never had a growth spurt or growing pains. Spiritually, I may be perceived as fairly tall, and I have had no growth spurts, but I have had growing pains. Mostly, the growing pains have been caused by my reluctant flesh warring against my eager spirit. My flesh says, “Slow and steady wins the race.” But my spirit says, “The time is fast approaching, and is almost nigh, there is no time to waste.”
For seven years, my flesh was louder than my spirit. By the grace of God, I still took baby steps of faith in that time, taking spiritual leadership roles and defending my faith, but every step eventually led to an exit door closed behind me. At the end, I was alone in this home, and the silence was deafening. It was silent, because I covered my ears and closed my eyes. I sang praises to my King, but told Him that He couldn’t have all of me. I didn’t trust Him completely. I wasn’t completely His. I grew discontent and restless, but those feelings started a fire in me for a higher knowledge. It is not a wisdom that I could find behind class walls, but in personal study of the Word of God and the words of men and women of the faith.
The cry of my restless and discontent heart echoed that of Agur:
Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man. I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the Holy.
Who has ascended into heaven or descended?
Who has gathered the wind in His fists?
Who has bound the waters in a garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name, and what is His Son’s name, if you can tell?
Every Word of God is pure. He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him. Add not unto His words, lest He reprove you, and you be found a liar.
Two things have I required of You; deny me them not before I die:
Remove far from me vanity and lies; give me neither poverty nor riches. Feed me with food convenient for me, lest I be full, and deny You, and say, “Who is the LORD?” Or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain. (Proverbs 30:2-9)
This temple has been seven years in building and it is a structure that I still feel is not quite complete, but God knows better than I. (1 Kings 6:38, 9:10) I sought perfection, but realized only now that I cannot find it here on earth; this building, this body, can only hope to be a mere reflection of the glorious building and body found in Heaven. Instead, I now seek to be perfected, that the holes and structural weaknesses of this spiritual temple would be healed, mended, and renewed.
I have run this race at a slow and steady pace. The muscles in my body and spirit seem tuned to that pace, but I am not confined to my training. I must be prepared, but God is the One Who gives me strength to go the extra mile, to say exactly what needs to be said, and to suffer for the cause of the cross of Christ. Up till now, I cannot say that I have truly suffered. My burden has been light, and my yoke, easy, because Jesus has been gracious to me. (Matthew 11) Perhaps I have been blessed, so that when I do suffer, I may remember that my Abba has been faithful to me in this life. And how much more shall He be faithful to me in the life to come? Surely, this world is not my home. My home is in Christ.
I am so grateful that my Yeshua has been patient with me. My heart is full at the sound of His voice. What was once silence is now a wave of joy, love, and hope. Daily, I am overwhelmed by His wondrous love for me. But I am still working out this faith. I am still growing. God is not finished with me yet and He won’t be finished with me until He calls me home. Even then, I will have an eternal call to do what I love and to stand in the presence of the One I love.
I am a late bloomer, but praise be to God who offers the same riches of grace to all those who call upon His name, whether weak or strong, great or small, rich or poor, fast or slow, intelligent or foolish. A flower that blooms is never ugly; it does not matter that it bloomed late. The Vinedresser is simply pleased to see growth, to see fruit, and to see predestined beauty finally bloom.
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ and be found in Him. Not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ: the righteousness which is of God by faith. That I may know Him, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings; being made conformable unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended. But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything you be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as you have us for an example. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) For our conversation is in Heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself. Amen. (Philippians 3:7-21)