In my absence from writing the past several weeks I have started a diet on which I have already dropped 8+ pounds. Knowing my husband is the most honest, straight-forward person that God placed on this earth, I dared to strike a pose this mornig right before stepping into the shower while questioning him in a sing-song little girl voice, "Am I skinny yet?" Not surprisingly, just as I had hoped, he answered honestly, "You're skinnier than you were!" Why am I pleased with this answer that implies I'm still on the wrong side of chubby with more than a few pounds to go before my ideal weight will be attained? Because I know, just as I am sure you do, that weight loss is a process that requires time and effort. One doesn't miraculously drop from nearly 200 pounds to 150 with the first sip of Coke Zero! I am pleased that my husband recognized a noticeable and measurable difference in my size and shape this morning although I am well aware that I haven't yet met my goal! As I was completing my morning routine my stroke-ravaged brain made a connection from that incident to a moment that occurred during yet another new development since the last time I wrote. Yesterday, I began teaching/leading a women's Bible study entitled, "Living Victoriously In Difficult Times." During the introductory lesson, we began an overview of the spiritual benchmarks or milestones I have identified from personal experience that are necessary to have reached in order to be victorious when life stinks. By definition, benchmark and milestone are both words that describe a marker that identifies a specific distance traveled on a journey. In order to progress on said journey, one must pass the progressive milestones to reach a further location. Just as I must lose 10 pounds before I can boast having lost 50, I must grow in my relationship with God through Jesus Christ past certain understandings in order to experience true VICTORY in life no matter the circumstance. Making spiritual progress requires discipline and effort just as progressing in a weight loss program does. While abstaining from fatty and sugar-filled yum-yums seems to be the key attaining my goal weight, gorging on God's word and regularly enjoying ooey-gooey, sweet time in God's presence through prayer, worship and fellowship with other believers are key to spiritual growth. I share this because sometimes we can become discouraged and even question our salvation when we witness other Christians who are farther down the road with God, and once again, just as in weight loss, it not really about where you are but instead about whether you are making recognizable progress on your spiritual journey or not, so strike a pose before the most honest person you know and ask, "Do you see a difference in me? Do I look more like Jesus (our behavioral and spiritual goal as Christians)?" On this note, I remember watching the minister at our church as a teenager and thinking, "That's what I want! I want to love God with that intensity, passion, dedication, and committment! Well, today as a 30 -year-old woman who still treasures that minister and his family, knowing intimately who I was as a teenager, I know I have progressed farther and farther along the path to those characteristics I admired in his spirit...spiritually, I am a different size and shape than I was, and although I have not finished my journey and there is still room for plenty of growth, I am near to giddy over the results I see, so I will continue seeking to grow in the Lord as long as I live, and one day, when I get the privelage of finally meeting Jesus(and not a second before!) I will finally be made perfect (completely reflecting Jesus in everyway). I find this comparison of weight loss and spiritual growth interesting because one is about losing and shrinking while the other is about gaining everything and growing while both are important to health and quality of life (just in different areas). Take some time to evaluate your spiritual progress once in awhile just as you might step on the scale or ask your husband's opinion occassionally when you are dieting to evaluate how you are doing and determine if you need to make a change in your program. If you don't have a brutally honest individual in your life to ask, dig into God's word because as 2 Timothy 3: 16 says All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so the man of God may be thouroughly equipped for every good work. Sounds like the equilvalent to a spiritual scale to me!:D Another glowing recommendation for God's word as a tool for spiritual growth is found in Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
If you are curious about the spiritual milestones I eluded to early on in this post, you are welcome to join me next Wednesday at Crossroads Christian Church in Evansville, IN for my class which is part of a larger women's ministry called Daughter's of the King (DOK). The program in its entirety runs from 9AM-11AM with my class portion beginning at 10AM being preceeded by a large group worship and learning time. One can pre-register at www.crossroadschristian.com. Child care is provided, so no excuses;)