Saturday, June 23, 2007

Are You Ready?

There was a public service TV commercial that came on in Baltimore many years ago. It warned against sexual activity among teenagers. The commercial was meant to be serious, but it was sort of funny. It pictured a mom standing at the doorway of her teen son's room. Her son was sitting on his bed in his messy room, looking dejected, while his mom chastised him.

She chastised him about his choice to engage in sexual activity. She argued that he was just not responsible enough to understand what he was doing, let alone deal with any of the possible consequences of his decisions. Then she said a line that was very funny, as well as poignant. She said,

"You want to run around out there having sex! Boy, you can't even keep your room clean!" (LOL)

Lately, I've been seriously thinking about how this is parallel to the Christian experience. Do you know that we will not be effective in this life if we "can't keep our rooms clean?" If we do not tend to the little things in life, God will not give us greater things. If we do not study our Bibles or grow in faith and love, we are essentially useless in our Christian walk. In fact, we may end up being more useful to the devil.

What does it mean to become mature?

It is essential that we mature, because if we do not grow, we will die. I want to explore that for a while, because I am concerned that in our society many who profess the name of Christ are at best arrested in their development, and at worst unbelievers. (See recent Barna study.) I also want to take my own growth more seriously, and to do whatever it takes to ensure that I, and those I help, am on the right path to get there.

So, what does it mean to become mature? I will begin to answer that by sharing an observation I made during a recent family vacation. My two girls are an excellent example of immaturity. They lack patience, are easily annoyed, and sometimes whine when they don't get their way. Although their boldness is admirable, it is always focused on what they want, not on other people's needs. (So, they can be lovable but rude very often.) And they are unable to even differentiate their needs from their wants, nor do they care to. All they know is what they do not want.

I also noticed that they aren't aware of their surroundings very much, and cannot discern what is dangerous or untrue. I wonder how many times I've said, "Don't put that in your mouth! Don't run into the street! Pay attention! It's not okay to whine; use your words."

So, based on what I observe about immaturity, I can safely say that maturity encompasses these characteristics:
  • patience (long-suffering)
  • humility
  • healthy concern for others (honoring)
  • needs and wants are in proper perspective
  • discerning (ability to judge right from wrong; good from evil; danger from safety; healthy from unhealthy)
  • long view of life, rather than immediacy

This is not an inclusive list, but it gives me an idea of what it means to be grown up. As a child, I needed to be taken care of, because I was unable to become these things on my own. But as an adult, not only can I take care of myself, but I realize what it means to be responsible. In fact, that is what I believe the definition of adulthood is: being able to take responsibility for oneself, and those in one's charge.

Spiritual maturity is no different. In Christ we realize something bigger than ourselves, and we seek to please him. This leads us to discern, and make choices that we are fully aware of as believers, and free to exercise as our responsibility. But we desire to grow in this faith and knowledge.

Mature people realize they need to grow, and yearn for it. Mature people yearn for those around them to do so as well. Mature people are not satisfied with rituals. Mature people are not satisfied with a shallow understanding. Mature people are not interested in joining movements and following trends. Mature people are not seeking after experiences per se, but want realities.

Mature people want genuine maturity, not a quick fix; to know the God who is real and loves us; and to enjoy His Presence.

Do we play at Christianity without cleaning our room? Are we willing to dive deep without pretense? Do we dare to fan into flame the gift of faith we have received?

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