From the moment we discover faith awakening in us to the moment we draw our last breath, we keep growing spiritually. Most of the time we are unaware of how this happens. Usually, it is only when we look back at our lives that we notice that we have grown, that we have changed.
The chart below helps explain what goes on when we talk about spiritual growth. Each stage presents us with gifts for our spiritual journey. Each stage builds on the other and all are equally important. Although growth is never this linear or precise, we cannot skip stages. A person in stage 2, for example, can't skip to stage 5. In fits and spurts we move through the stages. And we cycle back through them. We cannot speed up this process.
Here's the good news: God is in charge of our growth. He starts it, and He maintains it.
The invitation is to understand this process and to cooperate with it. We get clarity from knowing what is happening to us and what we can anticipate down the road. We are also comforted by recognizing that these stages are normal to most everyone and a part of being human.
The diagram below identifies the stages of faith development. It also shows us that we can cycle through the stages at many points in our lives. For example, spiritually mature people learn something new about God. They go to stage two and three to learn how to take that awareness and live it out experientially. A crisis causes them to look inside. And so on. Nevertheless, there is at any point in our lives, a stage that we call "home stage," a stage more or less characteristic of where you are right now.
Reflect on the stages and on the descriptions below.
What home stage are you in?
What signs of "stuckness" – if any – do you see?
What longings do you experience for the next stage?
Who can help you grow?
Further resources on spiritual growth over a lifetime
• Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, by Richard Rohr. Jossey-Bass, 2011.
"In the first half of life we are naturally and rightly preoccupied with establishing our identity ‐‐ climbing, achieving and performing. But those concerns will not serve us as we grow older and begin to embark on a further journey, one that involves challenges, mistakes, loss of control broader horizons, and necessary suffering that actually shocks us out of our prior comfort zone." (Inside jacket cover)
• Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Pantheon Books, 2005 edition.
"Drawing inspiration from the shells on the shore, Lindbergh's musings on the shape of a woman's life bring new understanding to both men and women at any stage of life." (Back cover)
• Second Calling, by Dale Hanson Bourke. Thomas Nelson, 2006.
"I love Dale's insight that midlife offers women a 'holy break' and the opportunity to forge a new identity that is grounded in prayer and is world changing in scope." Endorsement by Lynne Hybels