The Subtle Art Of Growing
I’ve been writing for two decades, but only in recent years considered myself a writer. Like all crafts, it’s one that can be honed and improved, something I hope I’ve done to some helpful degree. Any improvement hasn’t come from a silver bullet, some ‘sign up to my course to discover the secret of brilliant writing’ solution. Instead, it has been moulded slowly by mostly inglorious means. Like anything meaningful , growing better is often imperceptible.
Writing itself has been a means of growth, just getting words down more regularly, more consistently. Much of what I write never sees the light of day, some of what does appear here probably shouldn’t. Be that as it may, writing more often has stretched me to want to be better.
Though the act of writing has helped, more significantly, understanding why I write has also shaped the craft. For me, writing is a way of saying, and saying is way of seeing. Crafting words helps hone ideas, collecting images to better reflect the greatest subject of them all—the gospel of the grace of God given to us in Christ. I want you to be in awe of God, and I want my writing to point you to him. Writing is for more than self-expression, writing exists to fill our hearts with glorious realities that draw us ever up into Christ.
But I would still be a poorer writer were it not for the patient input from others. Those of you who comment and share, send notes of encouragement, or know me in person and have given feedback. Counted among these are guys like Andrew Moody at The Gospel Coalition Australia, and Jared Wilson at For the Church. Without their editorial input and support, I would still be floundering (more than I currently aim, at least). Earlier this year I was also given the opportunity to join a writers mentoring cohort under the guidance of Lore Ferguson Wilbert, a seriously good writer, a deep thinker, and a prime example of a woman who passionately loves the gospel and longs for it to permeate all of life. If you haven’t read her work before, leave this page open and jump over to sayable.net (bookmark it while you’re there and return often). If you are a writer, or desire to grow as one, please keep an eye out for Lore’s invitation to apply for her next mentoring intake, it is well worth your time and effort. At the close of this cohort, I wrote a brief reflection of my experience, and share it here as a way of hopefully encouraging you to grow in whatever God has put in your hands for his kingdom.
I wanted to be taller. Every fibre stretched to the limit as I willed my stature into existence. I felt the pencil press against the tender crown of my scalp. I heard the scratch of lead as it etched against the rough paint on the door frame. I held my breath and closed my eyes.
This was not the first time I’d asked my older sister to measure me. In fact, I’d lost count of how many times we had repeated this hope-fuelled ritual. I was the shortest in my class, the last picked for basketball, the first in line when the school photographer said, “Form a line, shortest at the front.”
I so desperately want to be taller. I wanted to one day stand eye-to-eye with my dad. I wanted to blend in with the guys. I wanted to grow. So every weekend I would beg my sister to mark my height against the frame, and every week she added another stroke over the one previous. I just wasn’t growing.
That’s the problem with most meaningful growth—you rarely see it happening. At least, not while the growing is taking place. Physical growth, emotional maturity, wisdom, skill, even listening—they all take time to develop. The ever-present incremental creep of change advances imperceptibly into a wider, deeper life.
There is wisdom in the old hymn; when Robinson penned the words, “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’ve come,” he spoke down through the ages of a truth we must all learn. It is good for us to make a mark, to drive a peg into the dirt, to erect a stone if we must, whatever it takes to say, “This is how far God has brought me.” It is vital to do so because, without it, we remain blind and forgetful.
In many ways, this shared experience of mentoring has provided another Ebenezer moment. I stood in the dust and noticed with fresh eyes just what God has accomplished. I know that more growth will come, and by God’s grace, I will raise more stones as testimonies to his kindness. This last eight weeks has left me with that old feeling of stretching every fibre against the doorframe, willing growth. Hopeful. And I’m sure I have. I know I have. But these eight weeks aren’t measured in isolation; they are a paragraph in a greater story, one this is still being written.
I recently purchased a house that was built 70 years ago. Before it was ours, it was a home to someone else. I keep discovering signposts to a story that was being written long before I arrived. A damaged brick. A lone post buried deep in the ground. Pencil marks on door-frames, each line with ever maturing script marking a name and a date. In a sudden moment in time I witnessed a child growing up. He’s out there somewhere, just like I am. In some ways, still growing.