As I watch my daughter learning more about the game of soccer, and the nature of games generally; it occurs to me just how many basic things that seem obvious must actually be learned. For instance small goals and big goals. The ultimate goal is to win the game. To so so, you must score goals, and defend your opponent from scoring goals. Oh yeah--there are opponents, who will try to take the ball away from you--not because they don't like you, but because it is the nature of the game. now--most of the time you are not actually scoring goals, you have to get in position to be able to score goals, so you must learn to pass--not just anywhere, there are good passes and less good passes--ultimately you must be moving toward your goal, etc.
I like that she is learning soccer, not because I think it is vitally important that she learn soccer. Rather I love what I anticipate she will learn of competition, goal setting, success, failure, team building and friendship. These permeate all aspects of life, including our Christian life.
GOALS: For what purpose am I on a spiritual journey? What do I hope to get out of attending worship, reading scripture, singing hymns, having conversations about God, serving in missions, etc. I'm not sure many of us ask this question, and we should. If I invite someone to church-life and they ask, "Why?" what will I say? To become a better person? For self-fulfillment? To find peace?
COMPETITION: Who or What are my opponents keeping me from the goal? Often competition can become an excuse--"Katie, get the ball!" "But if I do, they will try to take it away from me!" But as we grow, we learn to strive to overcome competition, not to submit to it.
TEAMMATES: Who are my teammates, and how I am I helping them, and they helping me--not just to get along with one another but to advance toward the goal?
PROGRESS: How do I measure progress along the way?
If we want to truly be on a journey and not stagnant in our faith, we need to continuously spend time on these questions. When you attend worship, bible study, etc--do you expect and are you looking for moments of life-transformation? Are we ready to recognize that there may be competition for our hearts, minds, and spirit? Are we learning to support one another as teammates to achieve the same goal?
I have become convinced that unless we understand the ongoing need for focused growth as Christians, our spirituality flounders and we struggle to understand the purpose of living the Christian life. I encourage you to name your competitors, and establish strategies to overcome them; stay focused on the goal of life transformation, connection to God, and true love of God and neighbors. And learn to rely on your teammates who share the same goal. Let us move forward in our spiritual journey.