“My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands…. Then you will…find the right way to go. For wisdom and truth will enter the very center of your being…” – Proverbs 2:1, 9-10
*We know that if something is alive, it’s doing two things simultaneously, growing and dying. Usually one of these processes is more dominant, or at least more visible. When our young children were developing their motor skills that would serve them well in life, the last thing we noticed was that they were also getting older and moving toward death.
We also know that the relationship between growing and dying is greatly affected by use. Think of this in terms of our muscles. The more we use them, the more they grow and increase in capacity, reversing the death process, or at least slowing it down. The same with our brains. At one time scientists thought that the number of brain cells we had at birth was all we were going to get. We now understand that the brain can grow and with use can develop even in old age. Literally, use creates life. Studies suggest that mentally challenging lives that focus on growth delay or prevent dementia.
Unfortunately, our desire to grow into more than we are can be stifled. When we no longer have an appetite for personal growth, we can drift into a state of “maintain,” where we just continue to be the way we are, day after day. We can relate to our spouses, kids, friends and coworkers the same way, never wanting to grow into relating more deeply. We can dull ourselves with TV, romance novels, video games, etc.
Since personal growth, then, is no less than a matter of life and death, it’s essential for us to understand what’s required to create growth.
The law of entropy says that “closed” systems, systems without a connection to things outside themselves, naturally die. But “open” systems can grow into a higher state of being, provided they have access to an external energy source. Translated into people, this means that to grow, we must be “open.” If we think we know everything worth knowing already, we will be closed to new experiences and sources of development. Rather than growth the result will be disintegration.
When someone is open, there’s the possibility for an energy infusion. They may look to connect to an outside energy source to push them to grow – a counselor, a group, or a community of growth. They may go to seminars and retreats, where they study, refresh, get input into their soul and re-create. They may establish an accountability relationship, get an advanced degree, or submit themselves to a mentor.
So, there are two options on the table: be open to connecting to outside energy sources that stimulate growth, or be closed to new input and begin to atrophy. A no-brainer choice, right? Maybe. Oh, I know what the “right” choice is, the one I should make, but opting to maintain, particularly as I grow older, can be awfully attractive. That’s why it seems to me that the choice we make here (and may well need to make repeatedly), in Proverbs 2 parlance, goes to “the very center of our being,” to the level of our character, who we are and what motivates us down deep.
I find that this is where the Bible can help. Frankly, sometimes my character needs a boost in order that I might keep on being open, keep on looking to make the most of my life. The Proverbs 2 passage above tells me that God wants to help me with this. He who has all wisdom knows the right way to go and, as long as I stay connected to him, motivates me to keep going that way.
Dr. Jim Furr
*With help from Henry Cloud’s book, “Integrity”