Spiritual Stretch Marks
Stretch marks are unsightly. They occur on people who have either gained weight or on women during pregnancy because the body is gaining weight rapidly and the skin cannot keep up with the changes. They happen because the skin gets stretched due to growth. I don’t know anyone that likes them or even desires them.
Stretch marks represent growth. A body grows causing the skin to stretch and tug resulting in stretch marks. While it happens every day in the natural, it should be happening to us spiritually as well. If natural stretch marks represent growth, then spiritual stretch marks represent growth as well.
But in order to grow, we must be stretched. And that’s not always easy nor pleasant. But stretching is necessary if we are going to grow. I deeply believe that God is more interested in our growth of character than he is our comfort. And our growth of character is almost always painful. But it is necessary.
I want spiritual stretch marks. I want to have signs that I am being stretched and growing. Paul talked about the marks that he bore in his body because of the Gospel.
Galatians 6:17 “From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”
I know that he is not talking about spiritual stretch marks. He is talking about being physically beaten and stoned. While I doubt that I will ever be persecuted for my faith to the extent that I am physically beaten, I can bear on my body the marks of Jesus in becoming more like him.
We should always be growing. But, there are seasons in our life where the growth is difficult. We fight the changes that God wants to bring into our life. We resist change. We don’t want to give up things that He is asking us to give up. We don’t want to deal with character issues or sins that we may not want to be getting rid of. We fight His dealings with us over holding unforgiveness and bitterness towards another person. As we go through these struggles our “spiritual skin” is stretched resulting in spiritual stretch marks.
While they are certainly unsightly in the natural, for me my spiritual stretch marks represent all the areas I have grown in. They are a reminder of how hard change was, how I was stretched uncomfortably and how that I did manage to grow through the difficulty.
I wish that change was easy. I admire bodybuilders that have worked with weights and exercise to form their bodies where their muscles are ripped and bulging. That will never be me because I don’t want to put in the work and effort required to do that. I want six pack abs but don’t have the desire, nor the motivation, to bring mine out of hiding. But even body builders get stretch marks. It’s because their muscles are growing faster than their skin. It’s a sign of growth.
So, my point is try to not struggle with the growth that God wants to bring into your life. The past couple of years has been a major season of growing for me. It’s been a period of lots of stretching, tugging, challenging growth. Some days I fought it, falling into the muck and mire of self-pity. Other days I was embracing the change and the growth. I am glad that God has me where I am right now. There is no way that I would want to go through everything that I have been through, but I wouldn’t trade my stretch marks for anything.
The good news is that stretch marks can go away. Naturally, you can use creams and lotions. I believe that in the spiritual the Lord also helps us to get rid of spiritual stretch marks by rubbing in His healing balm. They are simply a short term reminder of our growth.
I know that the Bible doesn’t talk about spiritual stretch marks. I have taken some dramatic license here to illustrate my point. For me, the season that I have been in has resulted in some serious spiritual growth and I feel the marks. In the natural, people tend to hide their stretch marks. I think we do the same spiritually. Sometimes when we are going through tests, trials and circumstances that God uses for our growth, we can feel shame and embarrassment because we don’t have it all together. We feel “less than” because we are struggling with doubts and fears. So, we tend to hide, isolating ourselves from others.
But we need each other. We are called to bear one another’s burdens. The spiritually strong are called to support the spiritually weak, without judgment or condemnation. We all need someone to help us through our growth season. We all need someone to be an encourager and a support. The stretching time in our life is usually hard and we need the support of others.
What about you? Has God been stretching you in your character, thinking, gifting or spiritual maturity? Do you have any “spiritual stretch marks” to show?