The Pattern of Personal Growth

Have you ever noticed how your greatest moments of personal growth occur?

There’s a pattern to it, I’m convinced.

First, a challenge. A challenging life circumstance or situation. Something comes at us sideways when we least expect it. A loss. Break up. Health problem. We don’t feel equipped to handle it, yet somehow we do. We’re faced with an obstacle and we pull through.

But we haven’t grown yet.

Next comes vulnerability. We share our experience of this challenge with another person. In all of our raw honesty, we open ourself up to another. We share in our weaknesses and by doing so, we experience vulnerability.

Then we reflect. Only after a difficult challenge and shared vulnerability, can we pause to really reflect about what exactly we’ve just been through. What we’ve grown through. How we’ve grown. And in our reflection, finally, our great moment of personal growth arrives. Clothed in compassion and humility. Void of all judgment. An “Aha” moment.

Challenge. Vulnerability. Reflection. In that order.

I believe that all of our greatest personal growth experiences follow this pattern.

Life is Our Greatest Teacher

“In fact, life is our greatest teacher. Whatever we are doing can be instructive, whether we are at the office, or talking to our spouse, or driving a car on the freeway. If we are present to our experiences, the impressions of our activities will be fresh and alive, and we will always learn something new from them. But if we are not present, every moment will be like every other, and nothing of the preciousness of life will touch us.”
― Don Richard Riso, The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types

A Description of Creativity

When Einstein was asked how he made his great discoveries, he said, “by using the imagination.” Creativity, then, could be described as using the imagination to move forward. This is something that we all do, all the time. In other words, we are all creative.

There are two generally accepted forms of creativity:

1. Creating something from nothing

2. Giving a new character to something

Of the two, I personally prefer the second. ‘Giving birth’ to something is often too violent. I prefer to think of it as ‘giving life’ because the process is incremental. Creativity is most often slow work, even though an idea does sneak up on us every now and then. But in general, everything is based on something else. Very little is completely new. From the moment we are born, we are bombarded with experiences which ultimately inform our creativity.

The Song of The Seed by Macrina Wiederkehr

Life unfolds
A petal at a time,
slowly.

The beauty of the process is crippled
when I try to hurry growth.
Life has its inner rhythm
which must be respected.
It cannot be rushed or hurried.

Like daylight stepping out of darkness,
like morning creeping out of night,
life unfolds slowly a petal at a time
like a flower opening to the sun,
slowly.

God’s call unfolds
A Word at a time,
slowly.

A disciple is not made in a hurry.
Slowly I become like the One
to whom I am listening.

Life unfolds
a petal at a time
like you and I
becoming followers of Jesus,
discipled into a new way of living
deeply and slowly.

Be patient with life’s unfolding petals.
If you hurry the bud, it withers.
If you hurry life, it limps.

Each unfolding is a teaching
a movement of grace filled with silent pauses,
breathtaking beauty
tears and heartaches.

Life unfolds
a petal at a time
deeply and slowly.

May it come to pass!

By Macrina Wiederkehr

Just Know That You Are Loved – My Personal Encounter with an Angel

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Two years ago today, on the worst day of my life, I had my first encounter with an angel, at the baggage claim of the RDU airport.

I stood alone, completely wiped out and broken, waiting for my bag to come around on the conveyor belt. There were a few other people waiting for their bags there as well, not many but a few. After about two minutes, my feet could no longer support the dead weight of my body and I sat down on a nearby bench. A young man, I’d guess my age or younger, came and sat down next to me.

“Excuse me,” he interrupted my empty, swollen stare, “Are you okay?” Hardly able to even turn to face him, I nod my head and mutter back, “Yea I’m fine.” My body language was screaming, “LEAVE ME ALONE!!!!” but he persisted. “It isn’t a death, is it?”

“No,” I snap back, justifying my lie with his increasingly annoying invasiveness.

“Okay, well I just wanted to say, I was in love with this girl for many years and we were happily together. I wanted to be engaged and when I asked her to marry me, she said ‘no’ and we broke up. I know it’s not the same…” he continued, despite my lack of response cues, “…but it hurt like hell.”

I managed to look him dead in the eyes this time, “It’s not the same,” I growled, my eyes piercing into him.

Looking forward, I spotted my large, brown, leather suitcase coming around the belt. One of the only ones left. I began to stand up and head towards my bag when the guy said, “Well, here,” as he handed me a 2-dollar bill, “just know that you are loved.”

I hadn’t intended to take the 2-dollar bill but there it was in my hand as I grabbed my bag from the conveyor belt. Dropping the heavy piece of luggage to the ground, I looked up to see my mom running towards me. I gave her a huge hug, momentarily allowing myself to collapse in her arms.

But wait, I wondered aloud, “Where did that guy go?”

“What guy?” my mom replied.

“The guy who just handed me this,” I waved the 2-dollar bill for her to see.

“I didn’t see any guys around, Sweetie. I saw you standing here by yourself. That’s why I came running over.”

In bewilderment, mixed with the still heavy shock of the day’s event, I stumbled towards my mom’s car, “Hmm…” I thought to myself, “Well, that was strange.”

Two years ago today, I lost my best friend in a tragic accident. He wasn’t far from me that day and he’s still as close as ever now.

My angel, I miss you.