Everyone Gets Old, Not Everyone Grows Up
Most of us love change when it applies to seasons, outfits, or home décor, so long as no one tries to change us. Yet we know that change means growth, whether it be your clothing or your personality, and so we realize that sometimes it is necessary, even desirable. Change is how we went from diaper-wearing, booger-eating, tantrum-throwing toddlers, to cashmere-wearing, sushi-eating, complaint-form-filing adults. Part of growing up means doing the things we need to do even if we don't enjoy doing them (like changing). But what happens when ‘grown-ups’ stop growing?
A few years ago I bumped into an old friend from High School. She wasn’t just anyone; she had been my best friend. The University of ‘time and distance’ separated the impenetrable bond we had formed, yet the memories we had made were still fresh in my mind and heart as we said hello in the same movie theater where we had hung out so many years before. She hadn’t changed a bit. As we exchanged information she rattled off the names of several new ‘popular’ (in high school maybe) friends she was now accompanying, continually fixing her hair and adjusting her shirt, all the while looking left and looking right to see who else was there or who else might be looking at her. These previously normal behaviors now seemed odd, almost narcissistic, I thought to myself as I walked away. We all grew up, so why didn’t she?
As a child I couldn’t wait to grow up. As an adult, I never want to stop growing. Maturity is best defined as a verb (something we are in the state of doing rather than being); to work something out fully, especially through long consideration, to go through a developmental process. In a world where suspended adolescence has become pandemic, causing us to find new labels for the socially enabled tweens, teens, and ‘young adults,’ I have noticed one characteristic of maturity that stands out above all the rest. The mark of maturity is when we go from being self-centered to ‘others-centered.’
Nothing seems more childish than the adult who still thinks the world revolves around them. We don’t care what you look like, how cool you are, or who you hung out with last weekend, we care about how you make us feel. You can’t make other people feel loved as long as you’re in love with yourself.
In my effort to ‘grow up’ I am learning to grow upward, looking to a God who requires us to love others and knowing I cannot change my self-centered nature without His help. I am challenged by verses like 1 John 4:7- "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love…” In an otherwise sad moment the other night I wanted to laugh at my son’s likeness to his own mother when he cried, “I want to go to heaven but I am scared I won’t make it because God says I have to love people!” My child had discovered one of the greatest hurdles to spiritual maturity, and while I couldn’t solve his problem, I pointed him to the God who could. “God will help you Moses,” and I thought to myself, “I hope He helps me too!”
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