Instant Mania: Giving Myself Permission to Grow Slowly

Lately I’ve been thinking about small beginnings, and I’m growing more comfortable with them. See, I have these desires to be complete and perfect. And though I know their shadowy sides, I do not necessarily think they are bad desires. In one respect I think they can even be quite holy: true desires for a true home. It’s just that they take time to develop.

Instant Mania: Giving Myself Permission to Grow Slowly

When I first started training as a chaplain at a local hospital, I wanted to know all that I needed to know. I wanted to have the answers to any and every question. And I put so much pressure on myself to instantly know everything about my job without going through the learning process.

One of my colleagues reminded me that I was still in this learning process, and essentially said to me, “We [the staff chaplains] don’t expect you to have it all right, Jeff. Remember that you’re still learning–and besides, mistakes are okay.”

When I first moved into my home in New Orleans, I wanted things to feel completely like, well, home. And it was only in retrospect that I became aware of how much pressure I had put on myself for this place to instantly feel like home. In the first month I wanted to have every thing just right and perfect–never mind the fact that feeling at home in a place also has a lot to do with knowing the place and the people, which takes time.

Here in the West we live in something of an instant society. Instant meals, instant music downloads, instant “friends.” I’m bombarded with do this now, read this now, hear this now, get this now, read this now messages. Don’t get me wrong: there are legitimate reasons for getting some things done now instead of later. It’s just that not everything can happen…now.

But then I read of the parable of the mustard seed in Matthew 13:

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in the field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”

And I begin to settle back into the reality that things take time. Indeed, how God is developing His Kingdom both in the world and in me is taking time!

Man, I wanted to start work and be perfect. I wanted to move into my apartment and have this place immediately feel like home. But I’m slowly coming to see that good things take time to develop. Good things need sun, water, tending, time, good soil, more time, seasoning–and I don’t mean Creole seasoning–I mean the maturity and growth that comes from going through different seasons in life.

And as I begin to remember the reality that good things take time, I begin to settle back into a place of rest, not anxious striving, realizing afresh that small beginnings are okay.

After 7 years of living abroad that culminated with a Master's of Divinity from Regent Seminary in Vancouver, Jeff Pate is now a chaplain at a hospital and is assistant pastor of Mosaic Church in New Orleans. The best thing about being single for Jeff: "I once read or heard somewhere that married couples can show the exclusive love of God, while singles can show the inclusive love of Christ. I love having the freedom (including the time) to share life with many different people. Right now, that’s especially the people at work and church."

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  • Beautiful! I need to be reminded of this hourly!

    • Jessica Bufkin

      I agree. Ever since I read this post a few days ago when Jeff submitted it, I’ve been pondering what he said about the desires for perfection not necessarily being a bad thing–that they are a reflection of our true home. Their “shadowy sides” (which I think is a spot-on description) are a constant struggle for me, but I found such consolation in his reminder that they can come from a desire to be perfect and complete in Christ, which will only occur in Eternity.

      Such a good word, friend!

  • Ryan S.

    i love the idea of growing slowly. it definitely doesn’t come natural in our culture, so it’s good to be reminded to BE STILL and give our roots time to go deep. Great post!

  • Scott Gottreu

    I identify with this deeply. I have a lot of things up in the air right now that could impact where I live, what I do for a job and my church family. I want to plan all the details but I’m reminded continually that I have absolutely no control over any of these circumstances. And as I read your article, I realized there is so much I can do in the interim instead of sitting around stressing out.

  • Jeff

    Amy, Jess, Ryan, Scott, good to read your comments. It’s funny the timing of this entry because I really needed to hear this today, too!

  • Ryan

    Praise God for you Jeff, and your strength to take the long view, and to pay attention to the process. I admire your commitment to Christ, and your obedience to his calling for your life. I know God will bless many because of your love for Him. Keep it going bro, just like you are doing.

    • Jeff

      Thank you, Ryan. Indeed in some areas of life I “pay attention to the process,” and in other areas I miss/intentionally ignore the process all together. Thank God we have others to show us our blind spots.

  • Nancy

    Thank you… I just discovered the Single Roots newsletters and enjoyed reading. Your article is encouraging as I’m preparing to mail out thank your letters for ministry, I included a card and key chain with the scripture of the mustard seed. It starts with a little to move mountains. A great reminder this morning!

    • Jeff Pate

      Glad to hear you were encouraged, Nancy.  Yes, small steps towards moving mountains.  

  • AC

    Great post, thanks for sharing. This post hit me so hard, I just moved to a new apartment and I was in instant “have to have BH&G cover room” … I was strapped for cash and panicked when I considered breaking into my savings to make my place perfect picture of home…. but was it worth it? Was this wise? Through prayer and some humbling, God showed me that just because I want my place to look like home, am I willing to wait? Oh, a single having to learn how to wait- jeeze, how much can a single take!
    But, I did… instead of the $150 bed set that I had my heart set on,
    I went to my every day low priced Walmart and settled for a $30 dollar comforter. This was just one of many sacrifices that I made to be wise with my money and content in the Lord.
    Thank for your post!

    • Jeff

      Yeah, when panic sets in, it’s usually a sign that something is not right. I hope your home feels like home soon enough; and even more, that you feel more at home in Him.