By Stephanie Wolfe
People think I look like Joanna Kerns, the famous TV mother on the 90’s sitcom Growing Pains. Don’t get me wrong; I’m flattered to resemble this attractive, intelligent and friendly TV personality. People approach me with, “Aren’t you...” and before they can think of the name, I say, “Joanna Kerns?” They say, “Yeah!” and I say, “No.” Or if they say, “Aren’t you the mother on…” I finish it for them by saying, "Growing Pains?" to which they respond with an enthusiastic “Yes!” I say, “No.” It has become quite fun!
While it would have been fun to be on a hit series like Growing Pains, there is nothing fun about the not-so-hit version of the process of growing. Pain is a good way to describe this journey, but it really is all in the way you approach it. Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional. Our approach to anything can ultimately determine the outcome. Our attitude about growing is usually positive; it’s just the process that we fear. Growing involves listening, obeying and often acting. Action can lead to change, and change is where the fear comes in.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we know we don’t like change. Change means we have to learn something new. It means the old familiar territory is gone, whether it’s a new job, new house, new neighborhood, new church, or new state. Change is intimidating, because we’re confident with what’s familiar to us and we lose that confidence when we’re faced with the unknown. But the truth of the matter is that growing means changing. You cannot grow without change! The process of growing involves change whether we like it or not, whether we’re ready for it or not and whether we think we can handle it or not. We can change without growing, but we cannot grow without changing.
Our kids face change when they move from elementary school to middle school, middle school to high school, high school to college and then into their first real job. We encourage them with words like, “We did it, and you can too! You’ll make new friends. You’ll see, it’ll be great.”
It is possible to change our environment yet resist growth. As ministry families we’re often called from one church to another, and that means change. It’s up to us to allow that change to help us grow into a more mature woman of God in the process. If we choose instead to allow change to make us bitter and resentful, we’re resisting our possible growth potential. For example, we can pack boxes, we can send change of address cards, and we can willingly get in the truck and say goodbye to the old homestead, but never really leave it behind. In other words, our body can be in Ohio when our mind and heart are still in California! Refusing to bring heart, mind and body to Ohio will only lead to depression, division and dwarfed growth. I know what I’m talking about.
In 1987, the Lord called my husband and me to Atlanta, Georgia to pioneer a church. I was sure He’d made a mistake! Being the youngest of seven children, with parents in their seventies, and all of us happily residing in Indiana, made the move to Georgia a frightfully painful experience, but we did it. My heart hurt for my “family ties” and longed for my familiar hometown of 30 years, yet I can honestly say that our move to Georgia is the best thing that has ever happened to me spiritually. After moving in obedience to the voice of God, peace like a river flooded my soul, and since the day we stepped out of the truck, I have not looked back with regret over that decision.
God saw what I could not see. In fact, God sees what we cannot, do not, or will not see. His plans for our growth will include change. We can decide to grow with the change, or change will come alone. Change and growth are essential to maintain healthy Christianity.
What is true in the physical is true in the spiritual, and physically I don’t like getting old, but I’m not ready to die yet! If you’re not growing, you’re dying. I’m not interested in dying spiritually, so I’m choosing growth. We all still have a good bit of growing to do this side of heaven, so let’s allow the Lord to change us. Ultimately, that’s what we really want, we just fear the process.
So if you find yourself facing a change of some kind, face it with dignity, face it with honesty, and face it with growth in mind. A little change does the body good!