Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Spiritual Maturity at the Water Park

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:9

I recently went on a trip with my family that involved a stay at a hotel with an indoor water park.  My kids, at 8 and 6 years old, are a little more cautious than most when it comes to theme park rides, water slides, and such, so I wondered how they would handle this new opportunity to take a risk, to stretch their comfort zone.  Would they go for it, or would they sit back and watch the other kids go down the two story water slides that loomed ominously up the stairway?

At first things went as expected; although they both climbed the stairs with me to see what this whole water slide thing was, they refused to take part when they saw the rushing waters trailing off into the darkness of a large plastic tube, with only a few feet in view and the rest of the slide an unknown path of winding ups and downs.  They could also hear the echo of other kids (and adults) yelling and screaming on the way down the slides and wanted nothing to do with it.  I trudged back down the stairs with them, ready to head off to the section of the pool where the smaller kids played in the splash pads, wondering when my kids would finally take a chance to enjoy the fun of these water slides.

Then something changed.  They continued to be drawn to the slides, as they saw their family members the same age going up and down the slides, screaming and laughing in delight when they came crashing into the final leg of the slide into the pool.  Finally, they both went back up the stairs to the top of the slides.  They both took the plunge into the unknown.  AND THEY LOVED IT!  After that, they must have climbed up those stairs dozens of times.  I sat back down and watched them go over and over again, without my help, and it didn't take long for them to become completely comfortable taking on this adventure on their own.

While sitting in a chair watching this phenomenon, God showed me that our walk with Him isn't much different.  As we grow in our spiritual maturity, God wants us to venture out and take risks, to try something new that initially makes us uncomfortable.  Jesus asked us to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19).  This means going beyond attending church on Sundays, hearing a good message, and returning to the others things we have on our agenda, as we check the box with God for that week.  That's playing in the kids' pool.  The real fun begins when we step into the water slides of life - sharing your faith with others, wearing a shirt, wristband, or bumper sticker that professes your faith, volunteering at church or another non-profit opportunity, praying for others, carving out quiet time with God, paying for someone's meal while in line at the drive thru, etc.  And like my kids being influenced by their friends and relatives at the water park, you may be encouraging others to seek more in their walk with God when they see your example.

As I describe in my book, I also experienced this same period of learning to stretch, to do something that many people would think was a little crazy.  And I know I still have a long way to go in this area.  But like my kids in the water park, once I took a bold step with God in an area of my life that He had given me to work on, I couldn't go back to the old way - I was hooked, and it was a lot of fun! I realized that it wasn't so scary after all, that God wouldn't let me do anything He knew I couldn't handle, and He honored my faith with unexpected blessings I would have never experienced had I not jumped into the unknown. 

Ask God to take you to the water parks of life, where He can stretch you to do more than you thought you could ever do.  He won't ever leave your side, and He knows which slides you can handle, and which ones you aren't ready for yet. 

If you want to live an activated life, it's time to leave the kids pool!

Adam Gellert

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