The Yield Point:
Where Growth Becomes Permanent
This past week has been particularly full for me, more than usual and my capacity has been stretched and tested. When thinking about it, I was reminded of an analogy for growth that my husband once shared which seemed accurate and encouraging. Rather than regurgitate his words, I asked him to pen his thoughts so that I could share them with you.
I just recently went back to Cambridge with my family. It holds a lot of fond memories for me. It was where I studied at uni, where I met my wife, where I got my first job, where I got my first house. Cambridge will always be an important and formative place for me. I caught myself driving through the small winding streets and reminiscing about how things used to be. Life seemed so simple back then. Of course, at the time it didn’t feel simple at all. When I look back at what I used to stress about it’s actually quite amusing. It seemed huge at the time, but with the passing of time and a bit more ‘life experience’, it all seems so trivial now. It struck me that personal capacity develops through the years without us really noticing it. This made me wonder, “How does our capacity grow?”
Did you know that metals are elastic? It’s true. Metals behave similarly to elastic bands when you apply tension to them. Just like an elastic band, metals will stretch when you pull them. If you stop pulling them they will return to their original length. Because of this property, metals are said to behave elastically under certain conditions. If you apply more force, the metal will stretch further. Apply a bit more still and it stretches a bit further still. Each time the force is removed, the metal will return to its original shape. There is a point, however, that once crossed, will change the metal permanently. It’s called the yield point. Before the yield point, the metal has enough capacity to take the force applied to it. When the force is removed it simply relaxes back into its normal position. But when the yield point is reached, it’s a different story. The metal has been subjected to so much force that all of its inbuilt capacity to carry the force has been overwhelmed. When removing the force now, the metal does not return to its original length, it has been permanently stretched and therefore is permanently enlarged.
I think this illustration gives an unique insight into how growth can work in us. For most of our lives we operate within our ‘elastic zone.’ Every now and then a little more is asked of us than usual. That might be in the form of a work deadline, a house move, or revising for an exam. An external pressure that applies some extra “force”. When these challenges come our way we feel stretched and a little overwhelmed, but we actually have enough capacity within ourselves to deal with the stretch on a temporary basis. Remove the external pressure and we return to normal. Nothing has really changed, although we’re pretty happy we don’t have to deal with whatever it was anymore. For most of life’s ups and downs, this is perfectly adequate.
There are, however, certain situations where we reach the end of ourselves when all our capacity is spent and the external force isn’t removed but continues to pull. Perhaps things start with just a work deadline which then escalates into a work deadline and a house move, plus an exam and maybe an illness, add the kids playing up and … well, you get the idea. Before we know it one thing has snowballed into another and it feels like an avalanche is heading our way. It can seem never-ending and like we’re going to be engulfed any second. The truth is though, we’ve hit our yield point. It’s painful, and it feels like we’re going to break, we’re being permanently stretched. It’s in these times that we find ourselves experiencing permanent growth. If we place these experiences into the hands of God, it can be in a positive way. When all the external pressures are removed, we don’t return to our original state, we return to a new state, hopefully, a bigger state. We’ve been permanently enlarged.
There have been so many times in my life that I’ve felt completely out of control and at breaking point, but if truth be told, I’d just hit my yield point. As human beings, we are far more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. Unfortunately, it’s only in times of pressure that we see how resilient we really are. I have changed the way I view challenges and setbacks. I’ve reframed them as ‘Moments Of Permanent Growth.’ Easier said than done I know, but it does change your outlook and perspective in a positive way. Tough times come to everyone, it’s an unfortunate fact. Live long enough and you will have a period that just seems to really suck. Understanding that these moments can be of benefit to us in the long term, doesn’t necessarily make them easier to navigate, but it can give them a sense of purpose in the midst of the stretch. They aren’t pleasant but they can be useful.
Looking back on the tough times I’ve had to walk through, I wouldn’t want to walk through them again, but I do recognise that I’m a bigger person because of them. I guess that’s the point really. Ultimately it’s in our lack and in our need that our awareness of God is heightened. In our weakness we can see His strength. When we get through the other side and look back, we realise that God is faithful and so the next time a challenge comes we have a personal revelation and experience of His faithfulness in our life. “If God got me through that, He can get me through this.” That allows us to face an uncertain future with an assurance that we do have the capacity to withstand adverse force, but not in our strength, in His. So if you feel like you’re at breaking point, take heart! Where we end, He begins.
2 Corinthians 12 v 9
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”