Feeling Stuck in Your Growth?

Charles Kiser —  October 16, 2012 — Leave a comment

A few weeks ago I wrote about how pain, frustration and distraction are normal elements of spiritual growth. Unfortunately, when many of us experience these struggles in our spiritual journey we think that something is wrong with us and so we disengage. For some it turns into a cycle of engaging and disengaging. We get stuck in this rut and miss out on the spiritual breakthrough that comes when we persevere through the struggle.

Lately I’ve been reflecting on this dynamic through the lens of the 3DM Lifeshape, the Square. It offers some guidance for what to do when we’re feeling stuck.  I think it’s a helpful tool whether you’re feeling stuck in your professional growth, in parenting, in your marriage, or in your relationship with God.

The Square is essentially a way of describing how people grow.

In this framework there are four stages of discipleship, each corresponding to one side of the square.

Here is a brief description of each stage (for a more in-depth description, see Building a Discipling Culture, by Mike Breen and Steve Cockram):

  • D1: unconscious incompetence. Characterized by: high enthusiasm and confidence; low experience and competence.
  • D2: conscious incompetence. Characterized by: low enthusiasm, confidence, experience and competence.
  • D3: conscious competence. Characterized by: growing enthusiasm, experience, confidence and competence.
  • D4: unconscious competence. Characterized by: high enthusiasm, confidence, experience, competence.

When we start our journey of growth, we are excited and over-confident. We don’t yet know just how much we don’t know. This is D1. And when we get a little experience, we discover how hard it is. We hit a wall. We become frustrated. We get depressed. This is the “pit” of D2.

Here’s where I see a parallel in the cycle of engage <–> disengage I described above. When we fall in the pit of D2, one of three things happens:

  1. We check out or disengage and live in passivity.
  2. We get a new vision or dream or ministry or goal and we run back and start over in D1 with it all over again.
  3. We find a ladder and climb up out of the pit and turn the corner toward D3.

Mike Breen observes that many people run back and forth between D1 and D2 because it’s so hard to live through the D2 pit.

In order to move past the pit, we need God to give us a ladder so we can climb out. The ladder has three rungs:

  1. Grace. We need to know that God loves us deeply and that isn’t in jeopardy.
  2. Vision. We need to be reminded where we’re headed and why God called us down this particular path in the first place.
  3. Access. We need access to mentors’  lives who have had their own D2 experiences and been able to persevere through them to competency.

In what area of your life have you experienced “D2” recently?
What has helped you to get out of the pit and continue growing toward competency?

Charles Kiser


I’m a pastor, missionary, and contextual theologian in Dallas, Texas. I’m committed to equipping and coaching Christians to start fresh expressions of Christian community in Dallas County — communities of hospitality, inclusion, justice, and healing.

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