Not everyone but most people eventually will grow up. It may take a little time, detour, down some unusual paths and even require digging out of a few ditches in order to get there but people grow up. I recently was in one of our fine churches to preach on Sunday morning. At the close of the service I was greeting the folks who had been there for the worship service and meeting some new people and enjoying seeing some faces from long ago.
A lady who came by asked me an interesting question. She wanted to know if when I was in elementary school if people called me Jimmy. I answered her that they did. I do not know when or where or why people started calling me Jim rather than Jimmy but it happened somewhere along the journey of junior high to high school years. Then she asked me, “Were you in Mrs. Aldridge’s class in the fourth grade in elementary school?” “That would be me,” I said. At that point, this sweet lady said, “Well, I thought that was you. You sat behind me in the fourth grade.”
At that point I wondered what in the world I might have done or said that she remembered about me being in the fourth grade and sitting behind her. To our knowledge we had not seen or heard from each other since the days in the fourth or fifth grade and to the best of my knowledge, that had to have been twenty years ago. She then told me that she and another one of our classmates had been talking that week. She said she was coming to hear me preach and the two girls were remembering me from fourth grade as a cute little blonde headed boy who was so so shy. I told her, “Well, it’s pretty obvious that the cute ain’t there and I’m not blonde headed anymore.” We laughed and she said, “Well, I could not believe that that was you when you got up and started preaching the way you did.” I told her I’m still shy and slightly withdrawn but that I have grown up some over the years.
I did not tell her but I have been in the ministry now over fifty-one years. I was thinking that in almost six decades people do change and they do grow up and they do exhibit new qualities. Today, I probably do speak with considerably more volume, maybe more confidence and authority, maybe with more energy than I did in the fourth grade. I may not be, but I hope that I’m a little bit improved in public speaking over my fourth grade presentations.
As I pause and look back, this whole panoramic view of much of my life I thought about how things change and how they stay the same. For one thing, I thought about we do change, but we don’t change. We study, learn, think, travel, are affected by those around us and the skies above us, but in another sense, the basic person that we are and much of the character that we become stays the same.
Oh, I know that there are radical things that can happen that change everything about you – tragedies that strike, wars that intervene, and maybe glorious encounters with God that give us a new direction. Still there are personality traits and qualities of character that stay in place throughout our lifetime which caused me to think about the reality that the most important changes that ever take place in us are the spiritual events and at a level where only God comes and intervenes in our lives. How we allow God to have His way. The ways in which we trust Him, communicate with Him, and allow Him access to our deepest crevices in our hearts with the things that truly make a difference. For some it was like a Damascus Road experience, not at all unlike the Apostle Paul who so dramatically came to know Jesus and from that day on would give Him all the way the rest of his life.
For others it may have been a “come to Jesus” kind of moment as Peter experienced in John 21 when Jesus asked, “Do you love me” (v. 15)? What is it in your life that you love more than Jesus and how do you respond when the Lord Himself says, “Do you love me?” Those kinds of changes can be dramatic, immediate, so profound that your relationships and the radiance in your face and on your life will be noticeable. That said, the truth is that only God can truly bring changes in any one of us.
Maybe you have already experienced the wonder of God’s grace that can make a difference and maybe someone of you reading this article recognizes that you need God to do something marvelous in your life. Simply growing up past the fourth grade, gaining weight, losing hair, advancing past fourth grade academics does not mean that you really have come to maturity in the Lord. There may be in each of us today things that God still wants to change, improve, point us in a new direction so that our lives will become more fruitful and more fit for the kingdom of God. People do grow up, but allow God today, this very day, to do something in you that He may have been prodding and probing to do for a long time and you just haven’t let Him. It is time to grow up.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.