A major feature of pathwalking is to make the best spiritual decisions you can in what you encounter within new or even familiar contexts. In that way, one “grows”.
Challenges can be unexpected or they can be anticipated, new or similar to previous. They can be hard or easy. But whatever a challenge’s form and intensity, it is there to expose assumptions, presumptions, stagnation, and complacency. If we only ever operated within what we know, we wouldn’t need to know anything else — hence complacency. We’d never learn what we don’t know.
Experts are experts because they learned past the easy, basic surface of a skill or knowledge base and into the atomic details. In this way, the more they learn of their specialty, the more they know it. Their familiarity grows ever intimately. They’ve seen their subject from a wide variety of angles (challenges). They’ve tested their previous knowledge (challenges) and refined their knowledge.
New contexts. New angles. New twists and turns. New tests. New applications.
Accumulated, refined knowledge. Fulsome intimacy.
Spiritual Expertise is ever increasing knowledge of the Divine, the Creator, God. And since the Divine is infinite, knowledge of Him has no stopping point. Our efforts have no stopping point. Our challenges never run out. And I don’t mean the same challenges over and over again.
Increasing knowledge is “growth.” Without challenge, there is no growth.
Many Christians find that they need to narrow and limit what they encounter. It’s like “narrow is the way” doesn’t exclude paving the path with gold, lining it with shady fruit trees, and posting refreshing wells all along the way. In other words, smoothing out the bumps and turns that might make for a challenge; limiting the routes to avoid exposure to particular challenges; staying on a circular track and accumulating minimal, if any, new knowledge of the Divine.
When I was a hiring manager, I’d look at resumes and read: “I have 10 years of experience.” What I would come to learn is this person had one year of experience 10 times. That’s circular. That’s non-growth. That’s complacency.
Our purpose for being is to approach the Divine: to know Him or Her. “Approach” means “ever closer”. Ever closer in thought, attitude, deed, perspective. Intimate. Think about the metaphor of “approach”: From a distance, you cannot see details. As you close the distance, more details are visible and more can be known. Challenges are in every footfall en route.
When one says he does his best to be kind and tolerant, by that he means they are part of his spiritual growth. Being kind when kindness is hard and tolerant when tolerance is hard — those are the challenges. But if you’re only kind and tolerant on your own terms, you’re using yourself as the measure of them, making the effort circular and not a linear or cumulative progression. I see people who use God to know themselves, instead of Him. In doing so, they lower the height of the spiritual bar, and reduce Him to what they can attain.
It is selfishness in that it focuses on one’s status and value rather than simply doing and progressing.
A tree does not, with deliberate effort, grunt out fruit. It simply produces fruit as a function of being. We know you by your fruit: not what you want to be or see yourself as being, but by what you produce without trying. In being a tree, you are simply being spiritual. Spiritual being – spiritual fruit. It is not the job of the tree to be a tree. It is the job of the tree to be. Your focus is on being spiritual; the fruit just happens without your grunting it out or intending it. The fruit is not why you do it.
Trying to be kind and tolerant is trying to grunt out fruit. It’s the wrong focus. It’s the wrong direction of energy.