Our church craves innovation. So when a seminar on “Starting Recovery Groups in Your Church” came to our area, several leaders jumped at the chance to go.
When they returned, it became obvious they were hooked on recovery. Being a fairly conservative church, we bombed out on groups for alcoholics and drug abusers. But other addicts came forward: Diet Pepsi freaks, “All My Children” addicts, church potluck junkies, Opraholics. The groups formed almost overnight: MWSIA (Men with Swimsuit Issue Addiction), ACOSTA (Adult Children of Supermarket Tabloid Abusers), HOLY (Hooked on Looking Younger), and SKOFF (SKinflints at OFFering Time).
After a few months, 91 percent of the congregation was in one or more of the recovery groups. Soon we dropped our midweek Bible studies to make room for the groups. The 10 Commandments had been edged out by the 12 Steps.
That left me in an awkward position: When it comes to dysfunctions, I’m dysfunctional. I’ve failed to become addicted to anything. But I wanted to fit in, so after lengthy self-examination I determined I might be codependent on myself. I formed ACOP (Adult Children of Parents).
Things went okay, though at first I was the sole member of my group. Pretty soon, however, the other groups were so successful that members actually left them. “After 16 weeks without scalloped potatoes, I decided to get back into the mainstream,” confessed a former member of AVCS (Adult Victims of Church Socials). They joined my group, which meets Wednesday nights in the church sanctuary. We read Scripture, sing a few choruses, then pray. It’s all very affirming and may help us remain free of our past addictions.
By the way, we’ve decided to rename the group: EWVRPM (Evangelicals Who Vaguely Remember Prayer Meeting).
I’ll never forget the look on my son’s face as we stepped out of the elevator into the hotel lobby. Eight-year-old Don was startled to meet a nattily dressed man with a trim mustache, who was no taller than himself, and furiously puffing on a big, black cigar.
As we made our way to breakfast, we discovered that we were sharing the hotel with hundreds of delegates to the annual convention of the Little People of America. Except for their stature (to qualify for membership they had to be under 40 inches tall) they were a typical cross section of the population.
I felt like Gulliver entering Lilliput, and Don, for the first time in his life, felt tall. The hotel had done its best to accommodate its little guests with ramps, stepstools, sticks to push elevator buttons, and even a short-legged buffet table. The seminars, workshops, and social functions were crowded with bright, articulate, cheerful, energetic little people. One couple was married while there, and several celebrated anniversaries.
Several of these new friends sought to put us at ease, explaining that in most respects their lives were very much like ours. We gained great admiration for their positive attitudes, resourcefulness, determination, and, yes, joy. They preferred to be called “little people” rather than dwarfs or midgets. We learned that there are many suspected causes for their arrested growth, including genetic factors, hormonal imbalances and deficiencies, or possibly even insufficient quantities of vitamin B complex and niacin. Whatever the source of shortness, little people must always struggle in a world built by and for those much taller.
Not to attain average physical stature is limiting and inconvenient, but it is much worse to be a moral midget or a spiritual dwarf—a condition to which no euphemisms need to be applied. We may be 5′ 2″ or 6′ 10″ tall, but we can experience arrested growth in integrity and character. If we suffer spiritual retardation, our plight is sad indeed.
Scripture warns how serious is this failure to mature spiritually. We can be tossed back and forth by counterfeit truths and victimized by a deceitful world. The immature are unable to distinguish good from evil. Whatever our chronological age, if we remain childish, we are apt to be dependent, self-centered, and lacking in self-control.
Unfortunately, it is no easy thing to outgrow spiritual immaturity. Determination and conscious effort are necessary. Growth requires purpose and planning. Moving toward maturity often creates stress and tension. It is not always fun to put away security blankets. Spiritual and moral growth involves risk and may cause pain.
If our spiritual growth is not to be stymied, we must confess sin and forsake it. We are told to throw off everything that hinders growth in grace. The path to maturity means acknowledging failures and breaking bad behavior patterns so that new, more godly ones can be established. Relationships surely will need to be reviewed, renewed, and restructured. The value systems that weave together so much of our personal identity will need to be overhauled in the light of Scripture. The precepts and example of Christ will show the way. Yet only if we are obedient to this truth will we be given more knowledge and the fuller understanding conducive to continued spiritual growth.
As we gain maturity, our prayers change. Though we may begin by asking for what we want, we move to seeking to know what God wants and align our desires with his. This means we accept the exhortation to draw near to God and to fix our eyes on Jesus. And from the growing intimacy of the vertical fellowship with the Lord flow new and improved relationships with others. Eagerly we respond to the call to encourage one another in faith and to spur them on to love and good works.
I don’t want to be a moral midget or a spiritual dwarf. I am determined to keep growing. Like my Savior, I want to grow in wisdom and stature as God intends and to find favor with him and with those whom my life touches. I may never become a giant in the faith, but I intend to keep growing as the Holy Spirit works in me.
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