I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5
Almost a year ago at my annual physical my doctor strongly advised me to lose weight. His words stung, but only because I knew he was right. I knew that the key to weight loss for most people is to expend more calories than you consume, but I didn’t know how to do that in a sustainable way. After some research I decided upon two strategies: weigh myself every morning and track everything I eat – every day. To do the latter I used an app on my phone called MyFitnessPal. Now, ten months later, I’m at my ideal weight, which feels great.
In the midst of the process a friend noticed that I had been dropping some pounds and asked me how I was doing it. I shared my strategy with him and now, six months later, he’s lost almost twice as much weight as I have. He looks great, and he tells everyone that he owes it all to me, which makes me feel great!
Having a goal is important, but having a workable strategy to achieve that goal is every bit as important. Often it’s easier to dream than it is to know how to achieve your dreams. It’s so helpful to learn from others and it’s fulfilling to share your success strategies with others, especially when they actually make a difference.
From the time I got serious about my Christian faith in college I’ve had a yearning to grow spiritually. You’d think a seminary graduate would know how to grow, but the truth is seminary taught me how to be a theologian, not a growing disciple. It wasn’t until I sought the help of a spiritual director that I learned of the “success strategies” of disciples throughout history. To put that in the language of John 15, I learned from those who went before me what has helped them to “abide” in Jesus. What a difference that has made in my spiritual life. Centering prayer, the Daily Examen and mindfulness are just a few of the practices that have helped me to more deeply connect with Jesus in a way that empowers me to more deeply connect with the world around me.
So here’s what I’m asking of you dear reader: What has helped you to grow spiritually? What “success strategies” can you share that might help others who dream of growing? Leave a comment so that we can all learn from one another.
Want to know more about some of the spiritual growth practices I mentioned? Check out our website.
Jeff Marian is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN