Between my freshman and sophomore years at college, I had an internship with my church's youth pastor. He took three of us college age adults and offered a summer of intensive training as co-leaders of our youth group. I knew I wanted to serve God, but I was not sure what that was going to look like, so I was excited about the opportunity to learn and grow under Pastor Dave. Our tasks involved working directly with the youth, planning and implementing activities, as well as speaking and leading our church's midweek prayer services. Not only that, but Dave met with us weekly as a mentor leading us in prayer and memorization of scripture. This was a time of phenomenal growth and excitement as a young person.
However, God has His own way of causing growth in our lives and His ways are not always pleasant. About mid way into this summer adventure I began having pain under my left armpit. After a few days large red lumps developed. Not being one to hurry to the doctor, my mother had a two volume set of medical diseases put out by Reader's Digest. In another day or two, when the red lumps painfully erupted, I knew I had a case of boils. An armpit in the heat of summer is not a pleasant place anyway, but throw in some oozing, festering lumps and you can be sure I wasn't a happy camper.
If you have never experienced boils, I can only say, I hope you never do. They are extremely painful. For the most part they can be treated with warm compresses, topical antibiotic ointment and frequent cleaning. If a fever develops see the doctor. For me, there was no fever, just three or four very painful lumps that had to be cleaned and tended several times a day.
In the midst of this difficulty, on one particularly painful day, I cried out to God as I was attempting to clean my wounds.
I asked Him, "Why is this happening? What is it that I need to learn?"
As if He spoke audibly He said, "Your attitudes are like these boils. You try to pretend things don't bother you, but your spirit is a festering sore waiting to burst. You have a sickness inside of you that you need to let me heal."
Wow! He was right! I had found myself over the course of those weeks becoming increasingly jealous of my co-workers at the church. I was not the dominant, funny, cute personality. I was the work horse. I also found myself frustrated with the youth. They were self absorbed and only ever concerned over having fun, rather than desiring Jesus. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. There I was acting just as immature as some of the 13 year olds and being a hindrance, rather than a help to my fellow ministers.
Right there in my bathroom at home I fell to my knees and wept. I was letting God down and I was selfish. I confessed my jealousy, my impatience and my lack of love and asked God to help me to grow.
I kid you not, when I say, within a couple days my boils were almost fully healed; the pain, redness and lumps all disappearing as if they had never been there. I realize a skeptic could say, that the boils had run their course and with proper care were at the point healing could happen. I disagree! God knows me so well. He knows my need for pictures. I am a writer. He knows that pictures will stick with me forever and indeed they have. He knew the only way I was going to "get it" was to make me "feel it."
God does not always smack us up side the head to teach us something, but He does what is needed to implement growth in our lives. I grew in three ways that summer.
First, I grew in a very personal way. It is not easy to be brought low and told that you are really messing up, but God did that to me. It allowed me, not only to see the depth of my sin, but the heights of His love. My mind grew as it realized that God does speak outside of His word. He speaks in very real "words" to our hearts. My emotions grew as I had to let God take the dross that had floated to the surface of my spirit and skim it off.
I also grew in the area of my relationships. I shared my trial not only with my mom, but went to those I was working with, including Pastor Dave, and apologized for having a bad attitude. The use of "analogy" has become a way God allows me to help and understand others. Through other trials in life, God has brought me to a place where I try to think before I act and where I can have a genuine hurt for others who are in pain, physical or emotional.
And finally, God grew me in the area of ministry and community. I realized this wasn't a "one trick pony" show. We are all part of the body and we are all necessary to the body. It is always hard to watch others getting the praise and credit for their work and good deeds, but I have learned to be content (or at least I try) where God has placed me. Not everyone can be a brain or an eye. Some of us are toes and shins! Ha, ha.
God teaches us in very different ways, but He does it for our growth and benefit and for the growth and benefit of others around us. Don't be afraid of growth, even if it is unpleasant. It is just another way, an Almighty God demonstrates His great love toward us.