Giving Ourselves Permission to Grow Slowly

Jessica Bufkin Contributor
Updated Nov 30, 2012
Giving Ourselves Permission to Grow Slowly
We’re an impatient people in an impatient society. It's difficult for us to invest time and energy into personal development, but we must.

When my 6-year old nephew visits me, I might let him play video games slightly more than he does at home. Don’t judge. I’m just trying to make sure I keep my good standing as the favored aunt. 

He’s a bright kid and he picks up new things rather easily, so when he came over recently, he wanted to download more games to play on the iPad. After getting an app and playing it a few times, he got really frustrated with his lack of success and tossed the iPad aside on the sofa.

“I can’t win this game, so I’m not playing anymore!” he fumed and crossed his little arms.

We proceeded to have a conversation about how we don’t quit things just because we don’t learn how to do them after two or three attempts. We talked about how some games are just more difficult, and he would get better at them over time. 

He didn’t like my pep talk too much. 

I considered sharing with him how Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, says that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something and how he had barely been alive 10,000 hours, so he just needed to chill about the iPad…but I didn’t. 

Because right then, I remembered how I had thrown a similar fit to the Lord about how my social calendar had taken a nosedive since moving to a smaller town from the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The Lord reminded me, like I reminded my nephew, that these things take time. I had been in the town for less than two weeks, and community doesn’t develop quite so quickly.

I didn’t like His pep talk too much either—mainly because, similar to my nephew, I value efficiency. 

Who among us likes to take the scenic route to work every day? Or getting out of our car to pick up our fast food instead of using the drive-thru? Or dial-up Internet when we can have high-speed access?

We’re an impatient people in an impatient society.

The problem is we can’t be impatient when it comes to our personal development. Think about it:


Occasionally a guy and a girl meet, fall in love, and marry within days or weeks of meeting each other. The rest of us slowpokes take our time getting to know each other through the dating process and engagement period. Both of those could last for months or years.

Financial Improvements

Becoming debt free doesn’t happen when we decide to cut up the credit cards and stop using them. It is a long, arduous process of reframing the way we steward the money God has entrusted us with. It’s building a system of paying down the debt, assessing needs versus luxuries, saving for future expenses, and giving generously.

Creative Endeavors

Writing a book, learning to play an instrument, painting a piece of art, filming a movie—none of these things occur because someone sat down with an instrument and the creative juices just flowed. Well, maybe it happened to a few of the most gifted, but for the rest of us normal folks, it was a process that began one day and was developed through 10,000 hours (or whatever the magic number is) of hard work.

Personal Improvements

Losing 50 pounds doesn’t happen the first week you decide to start eating healthy, the first week of quitting smoking is far from the end of the battle, you aren’t fluent in a foreign language after the first Rosetta Stone lesson, and Couch to 5k doesn’t have you 5k ready until week 10.

If it really is true that anything of value takes time, then why would we think our spiritual growth should be any different?

“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.” {John 15:5-8, The Message}




At home.


None of those words connote efficiency, none of them are indicative of speed, but all of them—every single one—are symbolic of time and patience.

When the Holy Spirit nudges, prompts, or prods us in areas where He wants to refine us and make us more Christlike, this development rarely occurs over night. Many of us would prefer for Him to just supernaturally zap us with little effort of our own, wouldn’t we? Because if we just pray that He magically makes us more loving, it’s much easier than daily dying to ourselves and abiding in Him.

With any spiritual discipline or the formation of our character—growth takes time. And here’s the thing: it’s okay.

It’s important to remember we don’t have to be the fastest or the most efficient. No one memorizes the fruits of the Spirit in Vacation Bible School and then suddenly becomes fluent in all things related to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

It’s okay that we’re only slightly more loving today than we were last week. As our walk with Him grows in intimacy, next week we’ll be slightly more loving than we were this week. But six weeks from now, six months, six years? As we become more and more “at home” with Him, we will see the evidences of grace in our growth process.

So let’s uncross the arms and chill with the self-induced pressure. That’s the way our world functions, not our sanctification. God gives us permission to grow slowly, to abide, to mature. Shouldn’t we give the same permission to ourselves?

A former junior high English teacher, Jessica Bufkin currently serves as Editor for SingleRoots, a website that encourages Christian singles to be intentional with their lives and offers many resources for to assist them, including a free eBook, When Will I Get Married?

Publication date: October 2, 2012