Tag: Spiritual Growth

Little Foxes

“Catch for us the foxes,
    the little foxes
that ruin the vineyards,
    our vineyards that are in bloom.”
(Song of Solomon 2:15)

What pesters you? What frustrations consume the dialogues in your mind?

The other day, I spent the morning frustrated by a minor detail of a conversation. Nothing necessarily immoral or consequential, but irksome nonetheless. It created an issue of more time spent discussing the topic that could have been avoided.

My wife noticed my distraction and seemingly “off” behavior. She graciously asked, “What’s on your mind?” Without really thinking, I blurted out, “Why do these little issues matter so much to me?”

Have you been there? I think for most of us, we prepare for the enormous issues. Yet, on a day to day basis, the little pesterings and frustrations get the better of us.
You have to re-explain the same direction after the thousandth time.
You once again have been the benefactor of a nitpicked piece of feedback.
Your day gets detoured by an unforeseen errand.
Your plans get altered by everyone else except you.

I recently came across Song of Solomon 2:15, the passage quoted above. In an extremely obscure book of the Bible, that word picture made so much sense. When you and I look at what derails us, the “little foxes” can be as or more dangerous than the catastrophic problems.

Listen to what Tremper Longman and Dan Allender say about the verse:

…the foxes stand for anything or anyone who threatens the harmony and well-being of the vineyard garden. That is, anything or anyone who presents danger to the intimate relationship between a man or women. (God Loves Sex)

Though Song of Solomon 2:15 specifically references the marriage relationship, this verse provides us a larger principle whether married or single. The “little foxes” keep the focus on ourselves rather than others. They can distract us from God’s best blessings in our lives. Ultimately, the accumulation of them in our lives can result in long term effects.

How do you deal with “little foxes?” It begins by identifying WHY anything or anybody has taken so much space in our mind and time.

These seemingly small issues hint to a deeper pain inside us: insecurity, bitterness, doubt, or anxiety. When we can go deeper, we can invite God to speak to the root problem. This is why community matters: with a trusted friend, you now have a place to receive truth and grace. Truth to see your blind spots to grow, and grace to receive.

What are your “little foxes?” What little pesterings or frustration are robbing you? Perhaps today is a prompt for you to identify these and take your next steps of growth.

Photo produced by CloudVisual

Intentional Conversations for Spiritual Growth

Intentionality matters. As humans, we need the reminders, calendars, routines, and to do lists. These tools invite us to prioritize. They help us focus the attention of our lives. Having healthy intentionality frees us up rather than stifling us.

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One of the most helpful pieces of wisdom in my life comes from Dallas Willard, “Grace is not opposed to effort, but opposed to earning.”

To grow spiritually in our hearts includes taking steps towards growth. We do not earn Jesus’ love from engaging scripture, prayer, spiritual disciplines, and living in community with others. These practices create space for us to experience grace from God.

Not only does spiritual growth happen intentionally for us personally, but it also happens intentionally in our relationships. Often, we can attend small groups or meet with our closest friends without ever discussing our spiritual lives.

What do we discuss instead? Our conversations end up focusing on the surface. The topics can range from the weather, sports, movies, and what we saw in social media. They can go deeper into our jobs and relationships with our friends, spouses, or kids. Conversations with these topics build trust and get to know others, but they do not go deeper into the activity of our hearts

A question that I get asked frequently is, “How can I go deeper in my relationships?” Just like the intentionality in our personal spiritual growth, intentionality matters for our spiritual growth with each other.

Growing together in community intentionally looks like…
Listening to others and being heard.
Speaking the truth in love and accepting the truth in love.
Encouraging others and receiving encouragement.

How might conversations on spiritual growth start? Here are four intentional questions to begin a conversation on spiritual growth with a friend. You may want to setup a time to meet for coffee. Then you might want to email them these questions to prepare for them and yourself:

1. How is God at work in your life?

Consider this question big picture. A person can point to how engaging scripture, a book, and pray have helped them recognize God at work. It might mean looking at the circumstances and other relationships in their lives to see repeated themes.

2. What’s your greatest challenge to your heart?

Talking about our hearts recognizes our attitudes, motivations, and feelings. Focusing on surface situations can cause us to look for everything outside of us to change including others. Asking about the challenges of our hearts helps us discover the “why” of what we say and do. Taking inventory of our heart makes our blind spots visible.

3. How might God be leading you to grow?

The first two questions require observation. A question like begins to take the observations to point towards growth. We can think of a thousand ways to grow, but this question asks for a specific way. Many times God leads us to growth by pointing us to one area. A question like this helps us update each other on spiritual growth and gives us an opportunity to follow up.

4. How can I pray for you?

We can belittle prayer for each other. After having an intentional conversation on spiritual growth, we now know how to pray for each other. Pray in the moment, but also pray throughout the week. Text and email to let your friend know you prayed for them.

What other intentional questions for spiritual growth would you add?

Photo credit by Kevin Curtis.

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