Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk so that by it you may
grow into salvation. I Peter 2:2
Summertime. Growing season.
I’m remembering a summer day long ago now. The memory is still so vivid. I stood behind my desk at the Williston Park Reformed Church on Long Island, and I felt so small. I had arrived the day before, fresh from a beautiful ordination service in Michigan, and I felt so blessed to be starting down this new road of pastoring. But I remember calling a friend on the phone and saying, “I feel as though I’m wearing a dress that’s two sizes too big for me.”
I thought of that time recently as I read St. Peter’s encouragement to the recipients of his first letter to “grow into” their salvation, to “grow into” their faith. “Grow into.” In that little phrase, Peter reminds us that faith is not a stagnant commodity. Not something we either “have” or “don’t have.” Faith is more like a dress or a suit that we put on—one that is two or three sizes too big. Faith is something that requires our constant “growing into.”
I think I grew a bit into that two-sizes-too-big-for-me dress during the years I served as a pastor, but I know I never fully grew into it. I think, too, that I’ve grown into my dress of faith over the years, but I know I never have and never will fully grow into it. There’s always so much more of God to learn about. So much more of God’s creation to learn about. So much more of Scripture to learn about. So much more of myself to learn about. (And please forgive all those sentences ending with a preposition!)
It’s always been interesting to me to note how eager most people are to grow in so many different areas of their lives. Eager to learn new skills. To hone old skills. To develop new interests. To read more. To listen more. To travel and/or explore more. But all too often I’ve also noticed that many people remain “stuck” in a faith they learned in their childhood but have not really explored and developed in their adulthood. For so many, as J.B. Phillips reminds us, their God is simply “too small.” And the problem is that a “too small” God often disappoints us. Such a God “will often prove inadequate in the tests of real life.”* The problem also is that a “too small” God does not challenge us to be all that God intends for us to be.
“Growing into salvation.” Growing into faith. Not just a summertime task, but really the task of a lifetime. A task that requires honesty, diligence, commitment. A task that calls for patience and humility. A difficult task. At times a heavy task, because of all the questions and doubts we must confront. But nevertheless, a most rewarding task. For it’s a task that calls us into an ever deepening relationship with ourselves. Into an ever deepening relationship with others. And most especially, into an ever deepening relationship with the immensity of the God of our faith, a God who is always so near, yet always just beyond our grasp.
*Robert Corin Morris, Wrestling with Grace