Growth. It’s a funny thing isn’t it? Physically, growth peaks when you hit 21-23 and it’s downhill from there (sorry guys), but mentally and spiritually, it never stops. It’s essential to our lives. You can’t do certain things without a certain amount of growth and maturity: from getting and holding a job to balancing your checkbook to sustaining healthy relationships, all of these need maturity. But even more so, all situations in life are catalysts for growth. From a job one might learn how to be punctual and respect authority, from balancing finances one might learn how to save, and from relationships one might learn how to love and be patient with people. Opportunities to grow mentally and spiritually are all around, and though the growing pains might seem tedious and frustrating, it’s a necessity that determines who we become as humans.
However, it seems that no matter how much growth a person goes through, the challenges will persist. It’s a mistake to think that peace and growth come hand-in-hand: life actually gets more complicated. With growth comes expectations, reputations, and even persecutions. But the beauty of growth, as I mentioned before, is that it never stops. Though I may fail to meet expectations, or tarnish my reputation, or crumble under the persecutions, I will never stop growing and learning and improving myself. No matter what people say, no matter what people hold against me, I will learn from my mistakes and move forward. It’s a beautiful thing isn’t it?
Last year I rode my skateboard to class every day (weather permitting). It was a sweet board: a Tony Alva 1977 Re-Issued deck, with red Bones bearings, red Kryptonics wheels, and Thunder trucks. It rode as smooth as any board I’ve ever been on (and I’ve been on a lot), and it gave me so much confidence. I bombed down Bruin Walk in stride, weaving around unsuspecting students. My bearings were so smooth and quiet nobody could hear me coming up behind them. I literally glided to class. The feel of the wind blowing through my less than inspiring hair was a feeling I’ll never forget. I thought I was invincible, some days. However, the burden of carrying that deck around from class to class all day always made me think twice about jumping on my board. The hills were trying and often made me break into an unforgiving sweat, and some days my calves would tremble after trying to balance my body weight on that board the entire day. I definitely had a give-and-take relationship with that board.
This year, I plan on sporting a new mode of transportation. A road bike. Though I haven’t tried it at UCLA yet, I’ve seen many people ride bikes to class with seeming ease. I bought a cheap, used bike off of craigslist this summer, made it my summer project, and got to work restoring it to its full potential. I must say that my dad and I have done a mighty good job, and it’s been a great bike thus far. It’s a almond-colored (yea, that’s right, ALMOND) 1995 vintage 6-speed Suntour road bike with red and white handlebars. It’s going to be amazing.
I know what you’re thinking, “How do skateboards and road bikes relate to growth?” Simple. My mode of transportation has grown from a skateboard to a road bike. Just like last year when I was far too excited to be riding a skateboard to class, I’m excited this year and anticipating a glorious return to school with my road bike in hand. It’s like how we are with growth. When we learn something new or see improvement in ourselves we often get overly-excited about it and feel the urge to put it on display, or bask in the glory of progress. Yet we don’t always anticipate the trials and challenges that come with it. God doesn’t helps us grow without also giving us an opportunity to show what we’ve learned. Some people grow and make the mistake of going into “cruise control,” and when the heightened expectations cause problems, they shudder and fall away from the challenge. I know that I will face hills, zig-zaggy bike paths, and globs of students next year; I can anticipate the challenges that come from the growth. But at the same time, I can take comfort in the challenges that oppose my biking ways because just like in spiritual and mental growth, I know that it never stops. There will always be something in the way or trying to push me back and hold me down, but thankfully God never stops either.