What Makes for Spiritual Growth?
At a church committee meeting we were asking ourselves, what brings about spiritual growth? Various theories were floated about. But then Brian, a very thoughtful 30-something, said, “Suffering.”
I hated to admit it, but in many ways he’s right. Those times of struggle, those times of suffering–if I managed to keep my head above water and if I managed to keep connecting to my faith–have in the end proved to be invaluable times of growth.
I’ve been thinking about this these beautiful sunny temperate spring days of Eastertide, as it’s called.
Who was the one who saw Jesus? Who stuck around the empty tomb? Who lingered through the Crucifixion, the darkest of dark hours?
Not Peter, not the 12 disciples, not those men who loved Jesus greatly and promised to follow him to ends of the earth.
It was the women. The women at the Crucifixion stayed until the bitter end. Then that Easter morn, it was Mary Magdalene, as the Gospel of John tells it, who went to the tomb early in the morning and discovered it was empty.
She ran to tell Peter and the other disciples who loved Jesus so much. They saw that the stone had been rolled away and the linen cloths had been taken off and neatly folded. They saw that Jesus was missing, but they didn’t see Him. Not yet.
It was Mary–the one whom Jesus had healed by casting out demons from her–who loved Him, who suffered greatly but didn’t run away from suffering. She saw the angels dressed in white. She asked where had they taken her Lord.
And then she saw Jesus standing there, not recognizing Him until He said her name, “Mary.” She knew Him.
The disciples went on to suffer much for their Lord, but early in the Easter story we get the message. When you stick around through the darkest hour, you will see the dawn. The truth in all its beauty reveals itself to you and calls you by name.