Room to Grow

for the week of May 8, 2000
by Rubel Shelly

One of the common complaints of people in our time is the monotony and boredom of life. I have a sneaking suspicion that this slant on life contributes to what we call "burnout." I suspect it also plays a role in certain high-risk behaviors that range from driving too fast to getting caught up in a marriage-destroying affair to experimenting with drugs.

Monotony and boredom are self-inflicted wounds to the human spirit. If you have a routine, lackluster, and sometimes tedious job, that does not mean you have to live a routine, lackluster, and tedious life. Maybe you need to change jobs. But that's not always possible or necessary. Maybe you simply need to give yourself some additional space to grow.

Perhaps you've been to the fair and seen cucumbers grown inside soda bottles or pumpkins in gallon jugs. Young plants placed inside containers grow to the space they have. They take on the contours and limits of their surroundings.

I understand it works with animals too. Put a young fish whose species normally grows reasonably large into a tiny aquarium, and its full adult size will be suppressed because of the strictly limited space it was given.

The same thing is true of people. We grow to the intellectual space we have. We take on the dull or positive contours of our emotional environments. We are big-hearted or parsimonious due to the spiritual influences that mold us. But this is not to say that we are the helpless victims of circumstances beyond our control. No matter your job or current life predicament, you can choose the setting for your soul. You can give yourself some room to grow.

For your body: eat sensibly, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and stay away from tobacco and alcohol. For your mind: read good literature, listen to inspirational-educational cassettes in your car, expand your vocabulary, and keep clear of the pollution of pornography and vulgarity. For your spirit: worship, meditate on Scripture, invest yourself in service to others, and refuse to live in the spiritual bondage of cynicism or bitterness over a "bad break" life has dealt you.

To be a big-hearted, great-souled person is not the unanticipated destiny of a privileged few. It is the preordained outcome for anyone who chooses to look beyond limitation to possibility and learns to see an opportunity in every problem.

"Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength" (Isaiah 40:31a).

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