The Fowler family is growing. Our family recently welcomed our third high school exchange student: Carolina Caballero Gomez, who is from Spain (pronounced, “C-ah-roh-LEE-na”). She joins us in counting down the last seven weeks until Fowler Creature #3 is anticipated to arrive. In these two family additions, we are growing numerically (and in food bills). They also point to a spiritual reality: we grow as humans and as people of faith through inclusion and intentionality.
We host exchange students because including students in our family challenges us to grow in hospitality and openness to others (and it’s fun!). Getting to know each student has helped us to know more about the world, other cultures, faith and religion, and ourselves. For example, getting to know Carolina challenges me to think about cultural conceptions of what an “American” is and looks like. By including Carolina (and Malin and Martina before her) in our family, we have grown as humans and citizens of the world. But we would not have grown without intentionally inviting them to live in our home and become part of our family.
I’ve long believed that being Christian means being called to grow in Christ-likeness – that a life of following Jesus must include intentional, personal spiritual growth. At times, I might have tended to emphasize the word “personal” in the previous sentence, as though our spiritual growth is a personal and private endeavor to be accomplished by the disciplined. I’m questioning that. If foreign teenagers and infants can lead me to grow in the knowledge and love of God, might it mean that a first step in growing in Christ-likeness is inviting someone else into our lives and sharing our lives with him or her?
If you’re an adult, God might grow your Christ-likeness through an intentional relationship with a youth or child – perhaps mentoring, tutoring, or regular greetings during worship. If you’re a youth (are you reading this?) getting to know the mature Christian folks that sit near you in worship might be exactly how God will show you love, forgiveness, and acceptance. Could it really be so simple? Maybe.
Intentionally opening ourselves to others + Including others = Growing in Christ-likeness.