Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. – Genesis 39: 20-23
A Month ago my husband started reading John C. Maxwell’s The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth with a group of men in our church. Once a week, they video conference to discuss what they’ve learned from that week’s chapter and talk through the accompanying workbook. Since our house is “cozy” and there’s not really a space for him to have theses conference calls privately, I have to pop in and out of the room, putting away clothes or fetching items from the room, and I can’t help but pick up little snippets of conversation here and there.
One of the morsels I gleaned from their meetings was about intentionality. Not of goals, but of growth. That peaked my interest enough to pick up the book and start reading for myself.
Unlike an aging child, this kind of growth is not automatic. Time might give us experience, it might give us a little wisdom, but it in itself does not actually give us the growth we need to reach our goals and do what we want to do. I have spent so many years in frustrated disappointment over this head full of dreams and ideas that have never come to fruition, and now I am starting to see what is at the root of that.
Sure, a small piece of that could possibly be contributed to life circumstances. Being a mom at 18 was not part of my plans, but to be honest, even if I hadn’t spent my early years in survival mode, I don’t know that I still would have done what was necessary to grow and achieve my goals, because growth habits weren’t a part of my character.
Having spent most of my adult life on church teams and in the non-profit world, I’ve been through my fair share of goal-setting sessions. Over the years, I’ve put a plethora of dreams to paper which is where they then went to die, discouragement ensuing.
I’m all for goal setting. I’d hate to discount its importance. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” – Proverbs 29:18. But goal setting without growth setting isn’t going to get you very far, especially for those of us who dream big.
“If you focus on goals, you may hit goals, but that doesn’t guarantee growth. If you focus on growth, you will grow and always hit goals”. – John C. Maxwell
As I reflect on what the growth process would look like for me, I find that perceived significance can either be a roadblock or catapult. At 34 years old, and still with several years to go before my children aren’t occupying most of my time, It’s easy to get caught into the trap of thinking that it’s too late for me to see the fulfillment of those hopes and dreams. A common misconception is: If goals are the only motivation for growth, and you truly believe you’ve missed the boat on your goals, then what’s the point? Then there’s the “justs”. I’m just a mom. I’m just a substitute. I just have a High School education. I have this silly blog that just maybe 12 people actually read. Nothing that seems significant enough to spend more time growing in and less time watching Netflix. Roadblock.
But Joseph was just a prisoner, spending his prime years indefinitely locked away. He was just a slave, hated and sold into slavery by his own brothers. Quite literally dream derailment. If there were anyone who had good reason to accept mediocrity, it was him. Most of us would take our ball and go home at that point. But Joseph didn’t see his life through the filter of the world’s standards of significance, he saw himself as a servant God, no matter where he was or what he was doing, and that everything he put his hand to should be done as if he had been tasked with it by his heavenly master.
Joseph grew and developed in the areas of his life that he had to work with at the time. The jailer recognized his gift of administration, and soon, he was running the entire prison. So well, in fact, that the jailer never had to even worry about anything under Joseph’s care. Those seemingly insignificant tasks Joseph took on and performed faithfully gave him the growth habits he would need to eventually run all of Egypt. Growth in the insignificant is hugely significant. Catapult.
It challenges me to look for seemingly insignificant areas of my own life to grow and stretch in, to offer up excellence to God, to be faithful, be challenged and taught, to be the best that I can be with what is right in front of me, to start to develop the habits of growth in the small things, so I can grow into the big dreams.
At my job, I could do bare minimum babysitting while running out the clock (I mean, that candy isn’t going to crush itself, am I right?), or, I can be a blessing to the teacher, cleaning their whiteboards, leaving detailed notes, spend down time praying for them and the students, and say yes to new opportunities asked of me, even if I’m not sure how to do it. In my hobby, I could write a few times a year as something comes to me, or I can schedule times for prompts, take online master-classes, create deadlines for myself, glean from successful writers.
As the Maxwell book goes on, it delves into detailed growth and goal mapping and practical steps and applications that are important and worth the time. But even if you never pick up the book, you can take the baby step right now by asking yourself, “What do I have today, right in front of me, that can catapult insignificance into significance”?