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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Salter Goodwin

Lessons from an Orchid

A friend gave me an orchid. It was the kind that sends out a long arching bough to hold its purple flowers as if hanging on a clothesline. It was beautiful.

But I cringed. I had killed so many orchids. Not on purpose, of course. Out of ignorance mixed with neglect. Still, I didn’t want another orchid to lose its life and beauty because of me.

The orchid survived its first blooming season because I remembered to water it. Then, the blooms died, lost their hold, and fell leaving an empty branch. I grieved what I believed I would never see again.

I don’t know why I kept watering it. Feeble hope? Curiosity? Guilt? Duty? All of these, probably. I almost threw it away once. I still don’t know why I kept it; but I did.

One day I noticed a new tendril reaching out. And then I noticed nubs on it. Excitement mixed with doubt. Could it really be orchid buds?

Not only was I careful to keep watering it, I bought some orchid bloom maker. I started taking this possibility seriously. Then, one day, miracle of miracles, a bloom opened. And then another. And another. I now have seven blooms!

I am no longer hunted down as an orchid killer!

I think for some of us, spiritual growth is like trying to grow orchids. We want the blooms; we just don’t know how to encourage them. If we could just get it started in the right direction, maybe, just maybe something would happen.

So what helps us grow into the person God knows we can

be? Like the orchid that bloomed when it had what it needed, there are growth ingredients we need before we can effectively. Here are my top three:

Know how to recognize God’s voice.

God invites us to grow. It is an RSVP message. However, you have to hear the invitation to accept it. Don’t substitute His voice for the best Bible teacher that ever lived. That comes later. Without the practiced ability to recognize when God says- here is where I need you to grow; here is where I need you to be silent. Growth that responds to God’s invitation is growth that will make a difference we can’t manufacture. Everything else is either more head knowledge or self-help. While both bring respectable results, they don’t always bring spiritual growth. God's invitation will!

Develop spiritual discernment.

Without recognizing God’s voice, spiritual discernment is replaced by some version of intuition that we tend to spiritualize. We choose what seems right to us and believe it must have come from God. We try to feel our way through some moral maize until we settle on a logical choice. Or we think it through the best we can. That’s like asking for a coin toss to help us decide what God says. It’s the wrong starting place. Instead, spiritual discernment starts and finishes with God. We take His Word as our beginning point. We keep asking Him about every perception, intuition, feeling, or thought. Nothing is left to our own best idea.

Make surrender the prelude to obedience.

Obedience without surrender will never lead to abundant life. I’ve tested it many times. My most significant growth always comes when I surrender what I want to be true or to come true. For example: I want to be right in a situation. God says, give it up and be mine. Or I want something to change and I want God to make it happen. God says, give it up and see what I have been working on just for you. We miss so much of God’s best when we hold on to what we want.

Do you see how these three components prepare us to grow? Remember, we aren’t the gardener, we’re the soil. That may be the biggest perspective change we have to make, giving up what we would plant so that we give attention to the growing instead.

In the next few weeks, we’re going to explore more about what stimulates and produces spiritual growth. If you have questions, write me.

Let’s keep learning what it means to grow spiritually . . . together.

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