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Last fall, I was ready to get a new dog, so my father gave me a book on the art of raising a puppy. Since this was my second puppy, I thought, How hard can this be? I’ve done it before.

The “Puppy Aptitude Test” was a useful part of the book. It helped me select the best puppy based on social interaction, submissive tendency, social dominance; sensitivity, etc. I went home, proud of my pick, because my poodle “passed” all the tests in the book.

Yet, as my puppy and I moved from the “socialization period” to the “juvenile period,” the real “fun” began! There were times I thought, Did I make a mistake? Friends encouraged me through this challenging phase and told me to stay the course, because my pup would move soon into the next growth phase where obedience would be easy and routine.

Ever feel like you need to be reminded that a new growth phase is around the corner? People develop and go through various stages in their spiritual formation, too. Growth is natural.

When a baby believer starts to see Jesus in a new way, she experiences repentance, a discovery of a new awareness of God, and the understanding of her identity in Christ.

Learning God’s ways and connecting with other believers help the new Christian to be more rooted, secure, and confident in the faith.

A shift may occur eventually when she moves from learning to serving and engaging in ministry. Spiritual fruit may result. A fresh excitement emerges as she uses her spiritual gifts in community to reach women with the Gospel.

Over time, the “dark-night-of-the-soul” challenges may shake her faith. Staying stuck is not the best choice. God is ever present amid the pain, and His power is available to those who trust and serve Him out of “weaknesses” vs. “strengths.”

Could it be that our “weaknesses” can be used to connect with others even more so than our strengths and spiritual gifts? Can the pain be used to touch others for the sake of the Gospel?

“That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

– 2 Corinthians 12:10

Learning to follow Jesus for the sake of the Gospel is a process through the power of the Holy Spirit. Each one’s journey is unique and not always linear. Aren’t you glad to know that the next growth phase is possible for you and your team?

As we think about our outreach efforts, have we seen progress? Do we find ourselves wishing for the next growth phase?

As for me and my puppy, well, our journey is just beginning. Training is still needed; however, I have hopes and a vision for my poodle. She is in the next growth phase, and I am right there with her.

Anne Schneider
Northeast Field Director

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