Recently I have been doing a lot of research and reading about spiritual growth. Like, how does a person become so vitally connected to God that they have the kind of spiritual life that Jesus had? Bold, confident, serene, not self-serving, but loving, wise, above the craziness, and any other good thing you can think of.
I’ve looked at what some of the most influential churches in America do to help people grow, and I have read some of the best authors on the subject. All of them talk about the value of spiritual disciplines – developing habits that help you change. Compare it with physical training and you get the idea. (I happen to like exercise so the comparison works for me. If you hate exercise imagine music lessons, learning a new language, taking a photography class, or anything else that can produce some change in what you are able to do.)
There is one discipline that is never included in the list of things like prayer, solitude, friendship, and the like.
What is it?
Okay, I have never personally known a leper. There are about 100 new cases of leprosy diagnosed each year in American. So, on the surface it may not seem like a priority to know how to cleanse one.
But, if Jesus is to be our example, we better know how. In Mark 1:40-45, a leper violates law and custom to come to Jesus and beg to be cleansed. I don’t know what the leper could have known about Jesus at this point, although, obviously, Jesus’ reputation for healing was news.
Here’s a lesson from that story. If the kingdom of God is at work in your life, meaning God is at work in and through you, as he was in Jesus, then sooner or later a leper is going to come your way looking for help.
There are plenty of people who are lepers without technically being lepers. I know that I’ve been one. That is, someone whose spiritual disease, failure, disfigurement, or some other problem has so become their identity that they have become isolated from God and others. One can feel like a leper without being one. Disconnected, disqualified.
Most of the time, unlike in Jesus’ day, lepers are hard to recognize. They are not walking around shouting “Unclean, unclean.” They may be some of the most successful people you’ve ever seen. But, internally they are struggling with a problem.
If they see God’s grace and power in your life, they may come your way. Matter-of-fact, one of the surest signs that you are growing is that people with problems will trust you enough to seek your help.
With a question or even a casual sounding comment they will signal that something is wrong. And they will wonder if you care.
So, pay attention. Don’t be too busy to notice. See what God does is you listen.