(A Response to the article and comments related to “Growing Up is Harder than Ever”)
It strikes me that in responding to the question “What does growing up mean?” few have offered a Biblical response.
Now, I must state that I do not have any real answers. I have been wrestling with this topic by another name quite a bit already, especially as I approach two months of unemployment followed by period of heavy job hunting. As anyone who has ever been unemployed may attest to, such a time is truly challenging. I believe it challenges men especially, as they are commonly pressed by our culture to pursue certain ideas of success. But that is yet another topic of discussion.
What does the life of Jesus teach us? In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes that the will of God is to pursue Christ-likeness. The Gospels seem less concerned with any cultural “coming of age”, but rather a maturation of our relationship with the Triune God and with our neighbors. The Word teaches that one of the ultimate truths, in fact the Truth, is Love. The mysterious triune nature of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is referred to by many names. YHWH could essentially be described in infinite ways. But one of the primary themes of the Gospel, of Christ’s passion—of the entire Scriptures—is that of Love. “God is Love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (I John 4:16). Thus, Christ is Love, and that is what we are called to pursue. It is the source of our hope. It is the source of our purpose in this world: to join the Spirit’s work in spreading the Kingdom of God to every heart in order that it might believe and receive Christ’s love.
But the pursuit is not limited to our relationship with God. It must be extended to those around us. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (see Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19; Romans 13:10; James 2:8) or “Love one another” (John 13:34-35; I Thessalonians 4:9; I Peter 1:22; I John 3:11, 23, 4:11) are calls saturating the Scriptures. From Love grows the fruit of the Kingdom. From Love the world was forgiven and offered the hope of redemption, the promise of eternal salvation from the chaos of sin. Love is our only true hope for peace. While we cannot fully realize Love in this fallen world, we can hope for its fuller reality when Jesus returns to assert his kingship.
I for one am humbled by this marvelous gift from YHWH. I then begin to wonder whether growing up is about the lifelong surrendering of our lives to the Kingdom of God as Jesus did. There surely cannot be a point where we have actually grown up; for, as another commenter notes, such a point would presume a lack of needing to continue growing. Knowing our frail natures, growing up must be a lifelong process; or even cycle of reexamining Truth with new or deeper insight. It is like the last refrain of Sleeping at Last’s song “Birdcage Religion” from their album Storyboards, which pleads “please be a broken record for me.” Growing up must have something to do with faith, with a peace found in the confidence of YHWH’s provision for our every need. That no matter how much we wrinkle and tear our clothes, His Love will “soften these edges and straighten out my tie/ and help me remember/ the hope that I have compromised” (Sleeping at Last, “Birdcage Religion”).
Growing up is surely a multi-faceted experience. If Love is at its core, it must not only have something to do with our connection with God, but, again, with the service and sacrifice we offer through the Holy Spirit’s stirring, Christ’s strength, and God’s faithfulness to others. Then again, perhaps growing up is not the facet we should be dwelling too long on. Perhaps it is so relative today that it is rendered rather unhelpful to discuss. I am not sure. There is probably much more to be said.
Nonetheless, if growing up is any of these things then we will be busy for quite some time . . . until the only one who truly “grew up” returns to make things right once and for all. To God be the glory, forever and ever. AMEN.