The Texture of Growth
Much of the texture of our lived existence depends upon our presuppositions about what growth looks and feels like. For some, the call to “be holy as I am holy” is a very literal endeavor, where we truly do take on holiness in a real sense. For others, the Reformed tradition for instance, it is not that we take on holiness as much as we learn dependence. We abide, to quote Jesus, in the vine. As a branch, it is not that we somehow come to take on the life-giving elements of the vine, but the connection we have with the vine deepens.
Along these lines, note Jonathan Edwards’s point about the texture of growth:
“A man that is very poor is a beggar; so is he that is poor in spirit. This is a great difference between those affections that are gracious, and those that are false: under the former, the person continues still a poor beggar at God’s gates, exceedingly empty and needy; but the latter make men appear to themselves rich…”
Note the nature of grace Edwards establishes in this account. The life of grace – the life of sanctification – does not differ from a life seeking justification. It is a life at the cross, where one comes without righteousness of one’s own to trust in, with, in fact, nothing but Christ and the cross. This is an important element of Reformed spirituality. Not only does it not trust in personal righteousness, whatever that might be, for justification, it doesn’t ever trust in personal righteousness. Righteousness is always an alien righteousness – Christ’s, and our holiness is simply our relationship to Christ. This relationship does not somehow take away the reality of our sin, but, instead, illuminates it. Growth in grace does not lead beyond the reality of our sinful selves, but into that very reality, coming to grasp deeper and deeper the love and grace of God to save one such as I.