Mind the Gap between Being and Doing
Spiritual Growth: Where Do I Even Start?
There are a thousand things we could do. I can think of 10 things right now that I could start doing to grow spiritually. But doing is not God’s primary concern for us. Doing is very important—Jesus cares a great deal about what we do—but He cares even more about something else. And that is our being.
Children & teenagers are often asked, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” However, that’s not the most helpful question. The best question we can pose to ourselves is not what we want to do, but who we want to become as time goes by.
I could tell you right now that you should pray more, read your Bible more, give up a bad habit, let go of a grudge, or a dozen other actions. But, what is really going to help you take the next step in your journey of faith with Jesus is your answer to the question: “Who do I want to become?” Our desire for being will then instruct our compulsion for doing.
Lately, I’ve been thinking I want to be more kind. I don’t feel like I am very kind a lot of the time, and so I want to become a kinder person. So what am I going to do about that? Well, I am going to ask God to help me learn, through practice, what a kinder person would do.
At this stage in your life, who do you want to become? In this current season of your life, who is Jesus calling you to become? Once you have your answer to that question, then you can start to figure out what to do next.
- Do you want to become a more generous person? Then start doing the things that a generous person would do.
- Do you want to be more pure? Then imagine what a more pure version of yourself would do in a given situation, and do that.
- Do you want to be a more joyful person? You might ask yourself, “am I doing anything now that actually prevents my growing in joy?” Then, consider putting a stop to doing that thing.
Who do you want to become?
Let me explain it this way: if you wanted to become a better piano player, then I would tell you to start doing the things that a better piano player would do. Mainly, practice playing the piano more often, right? Or if you wanted to become a fluent French-speaker, then that would impact your actions. You would have to start doing the kinds of things that people who have learned French before you have done. If you wanted to become a distance-runner, then you would start doing the things that a runner does. Your desire for being will determine your actions.
So, in your journey with Jesus, what is the next thing you want to become in Him? A more patient person? A more loving person? A more secure person? A more peace-filled person?
See, my mistake is, I try to go for it all at once, and then I get disappointed when it doesn’t work out. We ask God to make us like Christ, and we ask ourselves “what would Jesus do?”, and those are great questions, but they can get very overwhelming very quickly.
So rather than trying to become entirely like Jesus—just in the next 3 months—what if you selected one aspect of Christ’s character and focused your actions on becoming more of that?
What happens next in your life will be an action. Our being is shaped by our doing. But what I want us to consider is not just doing an action for the action’s sake:
- “I’m gonna pray more.”
- “I’m gonna start fasting once a week.”
- “I’m gonna read the entire Bible through in 2017.”
These are all great actions – but what’s their ultimate purpose?
Answer the question of being first.
Then you can choose an action that will contribute to your desire for being. For instance, a person may say, “My self-control is really poor. I’m impulsive. I just do whatever I feel in the moment, but I want to change that about myself. I want to become a more self-controlled person, like Jesus.” Fasting might be a great action step for you to take. Through fasting, we can train our impulses that they do not control us. Your action would then have a clear & direct connection to your desire for being.
Or a person may say, “I don’t really live my life like God loves me. I don’t think I fully understand His love for me. I want to truly know and understand how God feels about me.” Okay, that is a tremendous desire for being! And I believe God wants to meet you there. What I would suggest for you is serious Bible reading & contemplation. That would be a perfect action step for you, because we get to know a person’s character by hearing what they say and by observing what they do. And that’s what the Bible is! It is a record of God’s words & deeds spread over thousands of years of human history. You can now start a Bible-reading plan with a specific purpose in mind: to look for evidence, in God’s Word, of how He truly feels about you—to get to know this God and to gain a better understanding of the depth of His love for you.
Who do you want to become? What is the next aspect of holy character you would like to see God’s Spirit form in you? Now, what can you do about that desire for being, with God’s help? What one action could you take on this month that will help you become more of that person you are wanting to become in your journey with Jesus?
Nick Cash is a regular contributor to Soul Care Collective.