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The tender green shoot, branching off the established plant, is a sweet depiction of new growth. It’s similar to the soft, brand-new skin of a newborn.

New growth, the spiritual goal of Christ-followers, is a desire to be better tomorrow than we are today. It means moving forward and not living a stagnant life.

For example, I want to approach my family with more love and patience. You may want to be more kind, bold, hopeful or _______ (fill in the blank with whatever has been on your own heart for new growth in 2021.)

Through rose-colored glasses, new growth looks gentle and endearing, like the emerging leaf or the brand-new baby.

But if we aren’t careful, we can be fooled into expecting new growth to come easily.

The romanticized perspective of new growth is not false, but it’s also not the full story. Sometimes the new plant is bent by the blowing of fierce wind. There are droughts and harsh rain. Trials around every corner. Sometimes the baby cries as she gets used to a schedule. She deals with frustration at her attempts to roll over or get snacks from the table to her mouth.

In the same way, pursuing new spiritual growth can be challenging. We may not see the results of our efforts for many years, but it’s the continuation of each brave step that matters.

Progress takes courage and determination.

And when obstacles catch us by surprise, we can’t let it derail our forward motion. New growth is messy, and full of stumbling, clumsy steps.

Spiritually, when I hit a struggle (like losing my temper), I may be tempted to give up my goal of maintaining a loving and patient tone with my family. Especially when I think about how I’ve set this same goal, each year, for at least a decade. Shouldn’t I have it together by now?

But then I remember years ago when I would have spent all day, every day, frustrated and angry with my family. These days, I might lose my temper a few times a week, so that’s progress, right? The new growth can be difficult to notice, but it’s there. I remind myself to not stay stuck in the past.

Click here to read a few tips for how you can keep going