When I was in high school, I loved role-playing games. I could become a character in the RPG, and through adventures that my character went through, the monsters that my character fought, and the problems that my character solved, my character could grow in attributes like strength, wisdom, charisma, etc. My character became a stronger hero and lived to go on the next adventure.
Does one grow in real life in a similar way? Some Christians ask God for growth, and rightfully so. We pray for more love, more wisdom, more patience. What would happen? If we pray for more love, would God generate some more warm and fuzzy feelings when we see others in need and be filled with greater love to love others? If we pray for more wisdom, would God generate more inner smarts and more ideas in our mind when we face a decision? Maybe, but I think it often doesn’t work this way.
One time someone heard that Wendy and I are considering and preparing to homeschool our children. He said, “Wow, you must be very disciplined!” Those who know me well probably know that I’m not a very disciplined person. If I have to evaluate whether I can be a homeschooling dad by my level of discipline today, I would say, “No way.” But one doesn’t gain discipline by sitting on the sidelines. When the situation demands it, you’ll find that all the required attributes of life come out. It’s just like getting married. How could I know that I’m ready to marry someone and have enough love and selflessness to live with a spouse? The answer is: you don’t, unless you do it.
So when you ask God to change you to be more loving, don’t be surprised if He sends some unlovable person into your life. You’ll find yourself in a situation where you have to struggle to love and accept that person. Before too long, you’ll realize you can love better than you can love before.
If you ask God to change you to be wiser, don’t be surprised if He puts you in many impossible situations. You’ll be stretched in your ability to discern people and issues. Before too long, you’ll realize you’ve gained wisdom in the trenches of life.
If you ask God to change you to be more patient, don’t be surprised if your resolve is tested in multiple ways. Your weaknesses are dragged in the open and you feel stressed to your limit. And then your sufferings would turn out to bear the fruits of patience and other goodness.