Word of the Week: Growing

close up of lobster

By Ken Weliever (The Preacher’s Word, July 12, 2021)

What do we have in common with a lobster?

Nothing, you may think, except that the tasty crustacean provides for us a delicious and expensive dinner.

Eda LeShan, the late author, counselor, educator, and one-time host of the PBS show “How Do Your Children Grow,” would disagree.

LeShan tells about attending a dinner party and being seated next to an Oceanographer. She wondered, what will we talk about? Almost immediately the gentleman turned to ask her, “Do you know how a lobster is able to grow bigger when its shell is so hard?”

Eda admitted that learning how lobsters grow had not been high on her list of priorities. But now that he had mentioned it, she was curious.

The oceanographer explained that the only way for a lobster to grow is to shed its shell at regular intervals. When its body begins to feel cramped inside the shell, the lobster instinctively looks for a reasonably safe spot to rest while the hard shell comes off, and the pink membrane just inside forms the basis of the next shell. But no matter where a lobster goes for this shedding process, it is very vulnerable. It can get tossed against a coral reef or eaten by a fish. In other words, a lobster has to risk its life in order to grow.

LeShan said she found herself preoccupied with the lobster story for days after hearing it. As a result, the lobster story has found its way into numerous magazines, books, and blogs through the years.

Christian discipleship demands that we continue to shed our shells throughout our lives to keep growing.

In Paul’s letter to the Colossian brethren, he said that their faith and hope were known through the Roman world, and through them, the gospel was bearing fruit and growing since they first became Christians. Thus, his prayer for them.

“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10).

To the Thessalonians, Paul said their faith was “growing abundantly” and their love for one another was “increasing” (2 Ths. 1:3).

The apostle Peter instructs us with this direct command, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). Clinton Hamilton points out in his commentary on this verse that the verb “grow” in the Greek language is the present active imperative. The idea is continuance. Thus, some Bible translations render this “keep on growing.”

Growing demands that we get out of our comfort zone. Become vulnerable. Change. Take risks. And accept new challenges.

In life, we can get in a rut of doing the same thing over and over again to the point of boredom or even depression. Life can lose its zest. Our love can grow stale. Our passion can wane. The fire that once burned brightly can fizzle. To keep that from occurring, we must keep on growing.

Here are a few questions for self-examination to see if you are still growing.

  • Do you need to grow in knowledge and understanding of scripture? (2 Tim. 2:15)
  • Do you need better judgment in applying what you already know? (Phil 1:9)
  • Do you need to develop deeper convictions? (1 Tim 1:12)
  • Do you need to make greater commitments to developing your skills, gifts, and abilities in service to the Lord? (1 Pet 4:10)
  • Do you need to become more servant-minded? (Matt 20:26-28)
  • Do you need to add to your faith areas where you’re lacking in virtue? (2 Pet 1:5-11)
  • Do you need to be more engaged in opportunities to do good? (Gal. 6:10)
  • Do you need to be a more devoted husband? Wife? Parent?
  • Do you need a better, deeper, stronger love? For God? For your neighbor? For your brethren?

Have you quit growing? Progressing? And improving? Are you just surviving instead of thriving? Is your shell getting too tight? Do you need to shed it?

As we grow older chronologically it is easy to become complacent. To feel self-satisfied. To become over-confident. And settle for a certain spiritual plateau.

Finally, in the words of William S. Burroughs, “When you stop growing you start dying.”

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