Our family took an unexpected turn 10 years ago. Our fourth child was born with a rare genetic disorder resulting in cognitive and physical disabilities. We still don't know what sort of development milestones she will reach in her life. Every day is a journey full of joys and challenges.
This experience has taught me to love the family we have, not the family we expected to have. The sooner we were able to let go of our hopes, dreams, and expectations, the sooner we could simply be the parents she and the rest of our children deserve.
This is true for all relationships and communities, not just for parents. How do we love the neighbors, friends, church, or denomination we have instead of the ones we expected to have?
Loving our daughter also means working with her to realize her full potential—and I do mean work. We are supported by more than a handful of professionals to do this. It is painfully incremental. We delight in each developmental step. So does she.
In the same way, God is constantly at work in us. He loves us in our brokenness, but challenges us to grow. Our Journey 2025 lists four goals for the Christian Reformed Church that were developed from listening to churches and leaders across the denomination about where we felt God was asking us to do the hard work of growing into our full potential.
The first of these milestones is to “cultivate practices of prayer and spiritual discipline, transforming our lives and communities by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
We want to be a denomination anchored in God’s love for us and propelled by God’s desire to see us grow. We want to be transformed into Christlikeness and to bear the fruits of the Spirit.
Spiritual disciplines are called “disciplines” because they take work. They almost always ask us to do something that feels unnatural to us. They ask us to stop eating when we are hungry, to be silent when we feel the need to talk, to submit when we want to feel in control, to confess when we are ashamed, to worship when we feel distant, and to celebrate together when we still feel the burden of brokenness.
This work can be difficult and painfully incremental. It takes individual and communal commitment.
A community’s spiritual maturity is partially dependent on each person’s spiritual maturity, so if our congregations want to grow in this area, a commitment to communal and individual spiritual practices is necessary. This takes effort and intentionality. It also takes grace, kindness, and hospitality as we grow in these practices at different rates. We need to remember to love the family we have and to walk alongside each other wherever we might be in our spiritual development.
Our denomination has gone through some incredibly painful experiences in the past few years, and this will continue to reverberate for the next few years as well. The need for spiritual maturity—for individuals and for congregations who demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit that result from strong faith practices—is greater than ever.
May we all continue to grow and challenge each other to grow in these areas. May we encourage each other when there are setbacks, recognize the Spirit at work, and celebrate with each other when we see each other, our congregations, and our whole denomination being transformed into Christlikeness.