This week Sophie turned four. Birthdays are magical when you’re four. You could see the magic in her eyes when she woke up Tuesday morning. Those dark brown eyes seemed to dance and sing, “I’m four today. The world will be different now, better, bigger, wider.” Convinced that this was so, she asked to be measured. The Sandlin household, like many households, has a door frame where we mark the vertical progress of our children. Sophie tugged me over to the closet that bears those marks. I planted her feet on the ground, placed the pencil on top of her head, and scratched a line onto the wood.
“That can’t be. Were you standing flat footed?” I asked.
“Yes, sir,” she said with a wide grin.
“Let’s do it again. Maybe I had the pencil angled upwards."
By this time Alyson made her way over and I re-measured Sophie. No mistake. She’d grown two inches since January. Alyson and I were dumbfounded; Sophie was delighted. She doesn’t know what an inch is, but she could see the large space between the two marks. She smiled and laughed and twirled. She said joyfully, “It’s because I’m four.” I realized that she thought she had grown two inches over night. Yesterday, she was three so she was small. Today, she’s four so she’s obviously bigger. I don’t think she bought my explanation that we grow gradually throughout the year. She would later add, “Next year, when I’m five, I’ll be really big.”
Those of us who have stopped growing physically (at least in the vertical direction) still can find ourselves thinking that somehow at the next milestone, the next big event, the next whatever, that we’ll somehow be better, wiser, kinder. Of course, those things are much harder to measure than one’s height. And the lack of visible progress can sometimes be as frustrating to big folks as the lack of physical growth is to a child. It’s easy to be discouraged as you wonder whether or not you’re becoming more like Christ. I know there are times in my life like that.
I like to think, though, that when I get to heaven, up there in one of those rooms God is preparing for me, there’s a door frame with my name on it and pencil marks revealing the growth that’s happened through the years. I’ll probably be surprised at some of the growth. May even think it came all at once. Perhaps after some great turn of events, certainly not while I was in some great valley. God will have to explain to me, “No, it didn’t come all at once. It’s been me, gradually working in you, your whole life long – through the good days and the difficult ones, when you recognized my hand and when you did not.” I imagine in heaven I’ll accept God’s explanation. I’m certain, like Sophie, I’ll smile, and laugh, and dance a dance of thanks.
[I am] confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus – Philippians 1:6