I have to grow up. This is a startling realization for a fifty year old. But it is an undeniable truth that I’ve come to recognize over the last several years. I’ve bought into the cultural lie that the abundant life consists of youth and immaturity. This hasn’t worked well for me. Moreover, my commitment to this unspoken agenda has caused some difficulty in the lives of those whom I love. So, it’s time to grow up!
This realization has slowly begun to dawn on me in the last five to seven years. It began with a series of what turned out to be poor decisions that resulted in me leaving the pastorate and then, shortly after, leaving the missions agency that had accepted my wife and me as missionary candidates. This pattern of decision making caused some of the trust that my wife put in me to erode. It resulted in me launching out on a new career path and learning how to teach high school in my late forties. You can imagine that this was a difficult time in our lives. Thanks be to God, we are in a much better place now. While I am grateful and content for where we have landed, I would never want to repeat those years.
One of the main things through this painful series of events was that I had invested my hopes and dreams in the power of an outside agency to bring them to reality. As a young person, I imagined that I would walk into a fortuitous set of circumstances and everything that I had ever hoped for in life would happen. Later, this fantasy took the form of believing that a mentor would arise who would take me by the hand and show me what it means to be a husband, a father, and a vocational success. As a Christian, I believed that the Holy Spirit would step in and remove desires that are sinful and immature and work in my life so that life would not be a struggle anymore.
I don’t deny that sometimes people come into a set of fortuitous circumstances that are created for them completely outside of themselves. And I have had mentors who have been quite instrumental in my life. However, none of them have been “messiahs.” And while I continue to believe, perhaps more fervently now, in the presence and reality and power of the Holy Spirit, I no longer believe that His role is to do the hard work that we are called to do in growing up.
So, my paradigm of maturity has changed. Growing up physically just happens. If you feed children, they will grow. But growing up mentally, emotionally, and volitionally takes a great deal of effort on our part. It’s an effort that is countercultural. It means that we stop blaming our challenges and problems on our psychological makeup, our outward circumstances, or on other people. It is stepping up and taking responsibility tor ourselves. It is putting into practice the habits of life that are required to create a better future for ourselves, our loved ones, and those who are in our circle of influence.