Personal Growth


By Dr. James E. McReynolds

Painfully aware that I am just two years from age 70, I pray and plan for the rest of my life and ministry, and will emphasize my times of joy and happiness. I find that I must frame life in a different way. Rarely is our end of life path clearly marked. To face these days, it is important not to fear, but to see life as an adventure of continuous change.

Some of us do not grow up to do what we thought we would be doing with our lives. Times of failure descend upon us all at times. Life does not turn out as we planned. No person ever dreamed they would end up with cancer, or that they would be divorced, or lose their job.

Many things happen to us. Doing the following exercise can help you for your strategic spiritual journey when life takes us to one of these challenging places.

First, be aware of your growing discomfort with what is happening in your life.

Second, begin to realize the need to change, to accept another lifestyle.

Third, check out available options, becoming informed about the possibilities.

Fourth, ask yourself, "What do I want? What is drawing me? What am I willing to do?"

Fifth, become aware of where you resist change.  The known appears safer than the shock of the new. Be aware of what you are holding. At a crisis time, the illusion of control gets shattered.

Sixth, practice change, one step at a time. Take small steps, one day at a time.


What changes have you faced? Are they self-imposed? Are they sudden, unexpected, or unplanned? What did it feel like to go through a self-imposed change versus an unplanned change?

In Vienna, my wife and I enjoyed a marionette puppet show. We think we are the puppet-master of life. We have one string running to our finances. Another string runs to our marriage. Still another runs through our calling or career.  During a crisis we realize that the control was an illusion.

We must disengage from the past, gently. What from the past do you want to take with you into the future? What bridges do you need to burn? To be happy with inner videos of joyful times in our minds we must loosen the bonds of what we thought we were so we can go through the transition to a new reality.

We must be less enchanted with the old, realizing that the significant part of our old realities was in our perception.  We are more than the sum of our job description, our titles, and those roles we assumed.

Any ending is a dying. A person may be unsure of where she is and where she is going. We must go gently into the change process, accepting the natural flow of change with all its feelings and stages of grieving.

Our physical strength may be lessoning, but our wisdom strength may not have fully blossomed. The old answers no longer work. We are left with questions. As we age, the questions appear to be more significant and answers more elusive.

In our times of wandering, we want answers, but often there are none. Wilderness days come as the building of a fire. At first the fire is smoky. Our eyes water. We must light the fire within us and see that this reframing of life during the changes is not the absence of something, but the transition between life's phases.


Dr. James E. McReynolds has spoken in virtually every nation on earth. In 57 years of ministry, his Visionquests for Joy have enabled people to realize what joy is and what happy people look like. In retirement he serves as pastor of First Christian Church in Weeping Water, Nebraska. His book, Passionate Joy, gives his model of joy from an academic and spiritual viewpoint.





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