Often, sometimes intentionally and often unintentionally, we measure our spiritual growth (or the growth of others) by way of comparison. We compare ourselves with someone else.
More often than not, we compare ourselves who has been on the journey of faith longer than us, and as a result we end up feeling like a spiritual zero.
Don’t believe me… Pause for a moment and take a moment to try comparing yourself with some of the great heroes/saints of the faith–––Moses, Ignatius of Loyola, Mother Theresa. Of course, I need not expand that list any further. If you are at all like me, you probably already feel like an enormous failure––a spiritual weakling.
The other option is to compare ourselves with someone who we know we can more than stack up against. I shouldn’t have to elaborate here. After all, you know exactly what I’m talking about. When we want to feel good about our growth and maturation, we like to compare the best of who we are against the worst aspects of other people. The end result being that we emerge feeling overly confident and self-assured.
A third option, and quite likely a much more helpful means of gauging our spiritual maturity, is to compare who we were with who we are now. John Wesley commonly applied this criteria as he sought to judge the spiritual progress of the members of the early Methodist societies.1
As I look into the mirror and compare who I was with who I am, I find that far have I come, but far have I to go… In other words, I’m further in my journey of faith than I was yesterday (and, I’m definitely a whole lot further than I was as fifteen or twenty years ago), but I still have a lot of growing and maturing to do.
- John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley: Volume 2, 3rd edition, 14 vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 74. ↩