I once heard that a mystic is a person who sees God everywhere. I suppose that makes me a mystic. One place I see God is in my garden. In contemporary life we are removed from where our food comes from. We buy it at the store, pop it in the oven or microwave, and pull the food out ready to eat. In the process we have come to think that spiritual growth is like that. Follow the right steps, wait half an hour, and “ding” instant spiritual growth. However, spiritual growth is much more like gardening. A good gardener prepares the solid by tilling. He then plants the seeds and gives them fertilizer and water. The plants have to be protected from pests and weeds. Eventually the seedlings will poke their heads through the ground and grow into mature plants, ready to harvest. At least that is how things should work.
Anyone who has tried to plant a garden knows it is not always that simple. In a garden you can control a lot of the factors involved in growing. The one thing you cannot do is make the plants grow. Try taking a pumpkin seed to your counter-top and pulling a pumpkin plant out of it with ripe pumpkins. It’s not happening. Some times even the best prepared garden doesn’t produce a good harvest. Other times unexpected fruit appears.
The same is true of spiritual growth. We can give ourselves or others spiritual water and fertilizer, but ultimately it is God that makes one grow. Spiritual growth is given by grace. It is a gift from God. We can do all kinds of work to make it easier for spiritual growth to spring up in our lives, but it is only God that can make the growth happen. The good news is that a well prepared garden usually does produce a good harvest, much more than an ill prepared one.
Preparation and maintaining takes many forms. This is not an exhaustive list, but should help expand your idea of spiritual growth. Activities involve Bible reading, prayer, journaling, meditation, confession, worship, fasting, devotional reading, service, hospitality, solitude, retreat, fellowship, Bible study, and rest. If your regular habits only include a few of these, try a few new ones. Then wait and watch patiently for God to grow you.
Remember that it is God that does the growing. Growing takes time and even then God doesn’t always allow us to see that anything is growing until he is ready. He is involved in preparing the garden of our soul also, clearing away what we don’t see or aren’t able to remove. Petition him to help you grow. Sometimes the roots must grow strong before the plant bursts forth through the surface.