By Lisa Huddleston
“Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12).
When I was a kid I spent huge amounts of time anxiously, almost painfully, anticipating the future. I couldn’t wait for Christmas. I couldn’t wait for summer camp and swimming and horseback riding. I couldn’t wait to learn to drive. I couldn’t wait to graduate. I couldn’t wait to be a “grown up”—to have a family, to make my own decisions, to do something important, to make a difference in the world, to matter. I spent a lot of time daydreaming, reading, and even writing about my future—and perhaps wasting a lot of the present.
And it didn’t stop when I reached adulthood. I pushed my children. I couldn’t wait for them to walk, to be potty trained, to ride a bike, to learn to read … I just couldn’t wait. But before I knew it, the baby—the third and last of my little brood—walked down the stairs one morning looking more like a man than a boy. All six feet two inches of him. It didn’t literally happen overnight, but it was close. Three babies grown and heading out the door. And like the pains they experienced in physical growth spurts—one added six inches in less than a year—I found myself still suffering growing pains of my own.
As I approach half a century of living, I’m amazed to discover that I still don’t feel like the “grown up” I expected to become. I still struggle to reach new heights and still ache as I stretch and strain toward the next experience. Similar to my childhood craving for a warm, lazy swim in the lake while my reality was sitting in a schoolroom on a cold February day, I long for the next season. I long for the day when I will outgrow my childish behavior, when I will finally put an end to my selfish desires and my painful thirst for something more and arrive at the end of my strivings.
It is good and encouraging to read that Paul was a striver, too. And he didn’t feel “grown up” either. He realized that he had a lot of maturing to do and experienced a lot of pain in the process. But he didn’t quit, and he didn’t back away. He kept growing, making every effort to take hold of the goal, and celebrating that he didn’t have to do it on his own. He was sure that it was God who had placed his hunger in him and knew that the One who began that good work would carry it on to completion (Phil. 1:6).
And that is where Paul finally found contentment. “For me, living is Christ and dying is gain” (Phil1:21). It was his faith in the certainty that his strivings would end and that he would reach his goal because of Christ that brought him to that place. Not to an immediate end to his suffering, but to a lessening of his emotional strife because of the promised fulfillment.
No, I haven’t outlived my growing pains yet. I still ache to arrive at who I know I should be. But it comforts me to know that it is Christ who makes my arrival secure. No, not yet content in whatever circumstance I am, but longing to be so. And thankful to know, at least in my head, the secret: “I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). God isn’t finished with me yet.
And He’s not finished with you either. How are you still growing into maturity as a believer? What do you need to “make every effort to take hold of it?” Ask the One who began this good work to help. He will carry it and you on to completion!