Backsliding or Growing?

Backsliding or Growing?

"Backsliding or Growing?" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

I remember when I first read James Fowler's book, Stages of Faith. It shattered my fears of going off track or even backsliding. Instead, it helped me to frame the most anguishing periods of my spirituality as potential progress.

I happily discovered that doubts and questions are a crucial part of a healthy spiritual life.

It was the same joy I experienced when I took my first personality test in preparation for ordination into the ministry. To discover that my personality wasn't weird but legit was so liberating!

When I concluded spiritual valleys are necessary, my old concepts of spiritual growth changed.

I used to think of spiritual growth as linear. But I question that because it implies that you move along a line and leave the past behind you‚ forgotten, unappreciated, and unintegrated.

Then I used to think of it as stages. But I question this too because it communicates that those at a higher stage are better than those beneath them. We can even despise our own earlier stages and reject these important developmental chapters of our stories.

Now I think of growth as spatial. We expand to include more without rejecting our former selves. We grow outward while subsuming all that went before. This universal perspective helps us to integrate all of ourselves and encourages us to love all people who all share the same space we do.

Perhaps some people think you're backsliding.

Maybe you even wonder if you're backsliding.

I hope now you might be able to see that you are perhaps actually growing!

(We talk all about this stuff in, Why don't you join us there?)

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