I recently started potty training Joshua, my two year old toddler and it has been quite a messy affair with poop and pee in various parts of the house. It was also very messy when he started learning to feed himself and it was painful to listen to him cry for what seemed like hours when we decided to sleep train him. Through these experiences I have learned that every stage of growth requires a level of discomfort and ‘messiness’ and a LOT OF GRACE!
I have been doing a 21 days of grace for the pace devotional by Jeff and Beth Jones Ministry and I came across two phrases I had never heard before but summarised perfectly my current experiences; the ‘Grace Test’ and the ‘Grace Change’.
A ‘grace change’ is that rewarding, yet awkward and challenging season of change. It’s transition time between what God has you doing now-your current life schedule and rhythms’ and where God is taking you next- and your new life schedule and rhythms. Sometimes a grace change is minor and at other times, it’s a monumental shift!
A ‘grace test’ is that important, yet difficult maturing process of death. It is an opportunity to be humble, to die to my ambitions, my desires and myself. When we humble ourselves and pass this test, we tap into new rhythms of grace from the Lord and he empowers us in fresh ways.
Growth often means leaving your comfort zone, moving from your safe place and what you know to new territories and experiences and let us be honest it is not always fun just as I am learning through my son. I am sure Joshua would still prefer to have it easy with his diapers instead of now having to go to the restroom or potty. Of course eventually it will get easier and he’ll probably prefer the restroom but the transition stage can be extremely difficult. When you have to move beyond what you know and you are comfortable with, to completely new territories that you have not explored before.
In my personal life, I am learning this, as I push past my comfort zone to accomplish some of the things God has placed in my heart to do. I literally found myself dealing with serious anxiety every time I thought about certain things I had to do that involved leaving my comfort zone. Things I know are necessary but extremely uncomfortable because I had to leave my safe place. It reminds me of this verse: “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” (John 15:2 NIV).
Growth requires pruning. This might mean getting rid of some harmful and unnecessary characteristics as well unlearning habits and behavioural patterns you have carried with you for years. It can also involve learning new things that you didn’t know before which can be extremely humbling. Joshua for example had gotten comfortable with his diaper and he has to start all over again with underwear and pottys. He has to learn new things and new ways of doing things.
In my case, one of the things God has been teaching me is to be less interested in gaining the approval of the world and be more focused on him. The thought of “what will people say” has controlled me for a long time and has held me back a lot. There was a project I started working on in early 2017 but my fears and insecurities stopped me from making much progress. God has been pushing me and every time I overcome one fear or habit, there is a new experience waiting. I have to learn to think differently, I have to be more disciplined and consistent, I have to push through my personal discomfort in order to be more and be the person God has called me to be.
Initially I thought it was unfair, I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be more while being comfortable but I am sure Joshua too wonders why he can’t continue to poo in his diapers as he grows up. Why does he need to start using toilets and potties? The answer is this: God did not design us to be stagnant; he designed us to grow in wherever he has placed us and to actualize our full potential. Growth is constant, it won’t stop, we will keep having to grow in one way or the other and we better get used to the program and all it entails.
The major thing I have learnt is this; once I overcome the process, once the pruning is done, I definitely begin to see amazing results and in hindsight I am always thankful for the process. I realize that God has always provided me with amazing grace every time I have to move and grow and he has never actually left me by myself even when I didn’t feel his presence.
Some of us are currently in a season of growth, moving from our current level to our next level and it is uncomfortable. We don’t like it, it is painful, challenging and extremely difficult. But if there is something I know, we will definitely come out better than we were before. We will learn new lessons and ideally grow in our faith. The most important thing to remember in this instance is to ” be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…..for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” We have his sufficient grace to see us through and his power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor 12:9). Hold on, don’t lose faith, there is much more joy on the other side of this.
Are you currently going through a ‘grace test’ or ‘grace change’, tell me about it in the comment section. I would love to hear about it and we can encourage each other.