We have one place in our house where we let our kids write on the walls. Every 6 months or so, we grab a Sharpie (yes, a permanent marker!) and head to the door to our pantry. There, on the door frame, we write little lines getting increasingly further from the floor, with dates and names right next to them.
Marking those lines on our little growth chart is a favorite activity in our household. My kids love seeing how big they are getting. They back up their heels right to the door frame and stand up as tall as they can, as we draw that little line along the top of their heads.
Then, my kids go on to stand back-to-back with each other, comparing the difference of height between them. Then they do the same with their dad and I, checking to see how much closer they are to becoming taller than us. It’ll be a while for that, with our 6- and 9-year-old, but they try. There’s such joy I see in other families when a kid surpasses their parent in height, a lanky 17-year-old looking down at his dad.
But it’s not just kids who compare heights. As adults, we’ve grown to our full stature, but we still measure ourselves against others. Sometimes we calculate ourselves smaller – doubting our own abilities or gifts in the light of others who seem so put together. But other times, we add a few inches to our greatness, pridefully looking down at others who are so much less than we are, for one reason or another.
But when Jesus talks about growth, he speaks little of calculative comparing. Instead, he talks about things like mustard seeds, these tiny things that grow big for the goodness of other creatures. Jesus reminds us that it’s not about how we measure our growth in comparison with others, but that we are growing at all. A vibrant faith is one that continues to move forward, to try new things, to rebuild and strengthen practices of prayer or worship, to change our minds and learn something new, or to live with more delight and generosity. Only you know where the growth needs to be, and how those movements of development can make you more whole, joyful, grounded, or alive. So how could we ever compare our unique selves to anyone else?
When my daughter was a tiny infant I worried about her not growing, but our wise pediatrician would repeatedly tell me, “As long as she’s consistent with her own growth curve, she’s good.” This is true in faith, too. There is no need to compare, but simply to trust in God’s work in you. We can mark little lines on our own internal walls to celebrate how our faith keeps growing, like a mustard seed, to bring goodness to others, and within ourselves.