Eating the Elephant of Spiritual Growth

I’m sure most you have heard the question: How do you eat an elephant? The answer: one bite at a time. This past week I completed an elephant-eating sized task. As part of my responsibilities as the Vice-President for Academic Affairs at Community Christian College I am tasked with preparing the accreditation self-study. The self-study is a monumental task of evaluating every aspect of the College’s operations with accompanying documentation in order to gain ongoing approval (accreditation) from an outside agency. It amounts to a report of between 300 and 500 pages. I just completed our self-study this past Friday and mailed it off yesterday. I am taking three days off to celebrate.

Facing the completion of this task at the beginning was overwhelming. Given the time-constraints and the massive amount of material that had to be part of the study, completing the study almost seemed to be out of reach. The feeling of being overwhelmed came and went through the preparation time. It was present when I thought of all that needed to be done. It seemed to dissipate when I viewed it one bite at a time. In the end, all those bites and all that chewing brought the task to completion. The elephant had been eaten.

Trying to be a person who is growing and maturing spiritually can also seem to be as daunting as eating an elephant. I once was given a book which listed the 17 things that a person needed to do in order to see significant spiritual growth. I was overwhelmed just reading the title and never did read the book.

Sometimes I think we put spiritual pressure on ourselves and place ourselves in the position of trying to eat the elephant called spiritual growth. We create a “phantom Christian” – a Christian who is what a Christian should be and who does everything right – and then compare ourselves to this phantom and become overwhelmed because our lives do not measure up in so many areas. The phantom is not real but it is its very lack of reality that makes it so dangerous. Trying to be the phantom is like trying to eat the elephant.

A more practical and biblical approach is to eat the elephant of spiritual growth and maturity one bite at a time. Choose an area that needs some spiritual invigorating and take the steps needed to begin, by the Spirit and the Word, to seek to grow in that area. Though you will not reach perfection this side of glory, there is the opportunity to experience increasing maturity and even transformation. As you begin to make progress in that area, take another bite out of this elephant of spiritual growth. Since we are all broken people there are always areas that need healing and maturing.

What is one area in which you should be taking a bite out of the elephant of spiritual growth? Seeing that growth may increase your glimpses of glory in the midst of the grind.

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About Dr. John H. Harbison

Son of God, Husband, Father, Author of "Keeping Christ in Ministry,"Vice-President for Academic Affairs, College Pastor, Runner, Writer
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