Have you noticed? There is a new play structure called a Gaga ball pit in the church playground. This project was simultaneously one of the most exciting and exhausting things that I have been involved in since arriving at FUMC Hurst. It took five adults, eight students and nine hours to build on a day when the wind chill factor was in the 20’s. Needless to say, it was a long day. After completing the project, I realized that building the Gaga ball pit has many truths that also hold true to building up our faith lives.
- First: Sometimes you have to demo before you can build. Most building projects must have preparation before the actual construction can begin. For the Gaga ball pit, we had to make space by demolishing an old wooden play structure. Once removed we could start building the new ball pit. The same truth holds true in our spiritual lives. Many times when we want to grow spiritually we need to remove things from our lives that are keeping us from growing. Matthew 13:7 says, “Other seeds fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.” Until those thorns are removed, the seeds that we plant are unable to grow into a healthy crop. What weeds are we harboring that might be keeping us from growing? Demo-ing can be exhausting, as it was with removing the play structure, but it can also be very cathartic. It feels good to remove things from our lives that are in the way of growth.
- Second: Sometimes the weather is not ideal for the work, but the work still needs to get done. As mentioned earlier, the temperatures when building the Gaga ball pit were freezing cold. In the same way, sometimes our life climate is not advantageous to spiritual growth. Situations such as a tough job, loss of a loved one, financial crisis or a myriad of other reasons can stand in the way of our spiritual growth. I’m not trying to minimize the tough times that we encounter; instead, I believe that when we face these things we need to make due with what we are given. The students and volunteers building the Gaga ball pit had to bundle up and take breaks to warm up, but we powered through until the job was done. Likewise, when our life circumstances are not conducive to spiritual growth, we should do our best to find ways to work around those difficulties.
- Third: It is frustrating when the job doesn’t get finished as quickly as you want. With the Gaga ball pit, what I thought would take just a few hours, turned into a whole day affair. Not only did my usual day off disappear, but I also wasn’t able to get some tasks done that I was hoping to do that day. It’s always nice when things work out on our timelines but they rarely do. This is true for our spiritual lives as well. Many times we hope to reach a certain point of spiritual maturity and it seems like we never seem to get there. This can become both frustrating and disheartening to us.
- Finally: Building can be draining. It takes effort but in the end, the process is worth it. When we finally finished the Gaga ball pit, not only was I really hungry, but I was so tired that I fell asleep within a minute of getting into bed. All of the effort to get everything completed left me spent. The Gaga ball pit, however, is completed and everyone can use it. It will hopefully get years worth of use with the Youth, making the effort well worth it. Building our spiritual lives is also a tough endeavor but worth it in the end. It not only gives us greater intimacy with God but also a better love for neighbor and self. We become better disciples of Jesus when we invest the time and effort into following after him, even if it can be tough at times.
I’m grateful that when I think of growing spiritually, I do not have to do it on my own. Theologians recognize that God is the primary agent in the world and in the lives of believers. What is cool is that God invites us to be secondary builders. We have a part to play in accomplishing the renovation. God does not do the work in our lives without us, but instead God partners with us in the work that’s needing to be done. God is making us into new creations, and as much as I love the new Gaga ball pit, that is way more exciting!