"Now eagerly desire the greater gifts..." 1 Corinthians 12. 31
This is an invigorating time of year. Leaves are appearing on the trees, some of them already mantled in glorious blossom. Seedlings are peeping through the soil and buds are sprouting. The whole landscape is pregnant with new growth. And it happens every year!
But what about in our lives? Are we on a virtuous cycle of rest and renewal, going through our challenges and then bouncing back into a fresh season of curiosity and creativity. Or does it feel like we are on a treadmill going nowhere or on a weary trek where, having reached our peak, it's downhill all the way towards weary oblivion?
In the Christian life it's not a clichè to say "the best is yet to come" because it's true! I remember a professor from University remarking that, as he grew older, he was preparing to move from his human body into his spiritual body. All his learning and experience had not been for nothing, they were the foundation for what he was becoming as a citizen of heaven, an inheritor of the New Creation.
Paul exhorted the first generation of Christians in Corinth to "eagerly desire the greater gifts". This was not simply an exercise in discernment (ie go for these ones as opposed to those others), it was an encouragement to keeping developing: more kindness, more gentleness, more self-control... more faith, hope and love. This kind of growth is not age-dependent, nor does it depend on circumstances. Indeed, like those hardy perennials we rely on for colour in our gardens, they often thrive in the most inclement conditions.
Pauls' words to the Corinthians then are God's words to us today.