Can you imagine that headline on a greeting card? Unless you’re giving it to a pregnant woman, it wouldn’t make any sense. Even then, you’d likely get your head kicked in if she were in hard labor. Or, how about a card that says, “Well done on your recent job loss?” Or, “That fire did wonders to your house?” Hardly. Cards like that wouldn’t inspire—and they probably wouldn’t sell.
As a culture, we don’t celebrate contractions. Symbols of celebration are reserved for expansion: new job, new baby, new spouse, new dog. You name it. Expansion equals success. Contraction equals failure…and anxiety.
Here’s another barometer: the stock market. News of employment or production expansion brings a rally. News of economic contraction brings on the bear, and lots of anxiety.
But nature expands because of contractions. To succumb to the thinking that contractions are always failure robs us of our vitality. Let me illustrate. Jesus said, unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it cannot reproduce (John 12:23). He drew from nature a true principle for own lives. Multiplicative expansion follows seasons of contraction.
Astronomers tell us that stars are born from contracting gasses that gain sufficient mass to ignite a fusion reaction. It’s only then that they become a star, giving off expansive light, until eventually they exhaust their supply of hydrogen and expel the remaining gasses into a new nebulae. That remnant nebulae supplies the material for possibly hundreds of new stars.
Recently, when I was going through a period of personal contraction. I felt dry, perplexed and unproductive. I felt like a failure and wanted, more than anything, to get back to my highly-productive self. Then it occurred to me: what’s true for nature, as seen in the seeds and in the stars, is true for me as well. Jesus said as much. That was a powerful encouragement. I didn’t need to view a season of contraction as calamity or failure. Rather, I could see it for what it is—the breeding ground for, as yet unexpressed, expansive growth. Instead of pushing myself to resolve perplexity, I could anticipate new discoveries in a strangely peaceful way. A star would be born.
The next time you find yourself in a season of contraction, consider the new growth that is being formed in you because of it. Then, sit down and write yourself a congratulations card to celebrate.
“You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:3-4 (The Message)