He was tiny! At 3 months, Joshua was still at birth weight of 7 lbs 2 oz. Now, several months after his 2 major heart surgeries, he was still very small. I sat in the doctor’s office waiting to speak with the paediatrician about Joshua’s progress. They had already measured his height, weighed him, and taken all his vital signs. Now it was wait…

I sat nervously with my little guy in my lap, knowing that he was still well beneath the 50% growth curve. In fact, he was only in the 5th percentile – quite discouraging to say the least. And yet, he appeared healthy and certainly, very happy.

At last the doctor came in and proceeded to check out Joshua’s file and all the preliminary check-up reports, not saying anything. At last he spoke. “Good”, he pronounced. Wait…good?! How can 5th percentile be good? Upon my enquiry, the paediatrician held up the growth curve chart facing me so I could see and proceeded to point out all the little Xs dotting the bottom of the page. They made a nice neat little incline ending at the 5th percentile band on the growth chart. “See those Xs?” Yes, of course. “Each of these x’s marks where Joshua weighed on his previous visits. You can see they go continually up, right?” Sure. “This shows progress. In fact, great progress. True, he is on the bottom band of the growth chart, and he may always be small, but when you see how far behind he started, this is great progress. Joshua has his own growth curve and he is doing very well. Don’t compare him with others.” I left the doctor’s office encouraged and beaming at my ‘big’ little boy!

It wasn’t until some years later that God reminded me of this incident when I was morosely bemoaning my lack of progress in an area of spiritual growth. I mean after all these years of being a Christian, surely, I shouldn’t still be struggling with this particular issue?! I bet So-and-So doesn’t struggle with this sin. I’m sure my other missionary friends don’t! Why can’t I be like the pastor’s wife? She’s so spiritual!

Then it came back to me…the visit to my son’s paediatrician…and I heard God’s still, small voice whisper to me “You have your own growth curve and are doing well in my eyes. Don’t compare yourself with others! Just keep growing at your own unique rate.” Again, my heart was set at ease and I could get up and move on.

This lesson has served me well when working with others too. When I begin to feel impatient at a young person’s apparent slowness in learning a particular spiritual or moral lesson, I remember the doctor’s office. When I become angry because this or that church member continues to act immaturely, I remember the growth chart. Each of us is on his or her unique spiritual journey, precisely because He created each of us as unique. God loves diversity and He rejoices when we are on a healthy growth curve and He never compares us with each other. But, just like this new mother walking out of the doctor’s office proudly holding her healthy, growing baby, I can imagine God smiling at each of our unique spiritual progress. Let us not compare ourselves or others to each other but let us encourage each other on our own journeys. Let us keep growing.

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