It took me forty years to grow up, if I had done so sooner life would have been so much easier. I used to think that being grown up meant that you hit an age. When I was younger I always looked toward the next milestone. I wanted to be double digits, then it was being a teen, then it was being 16 so I could drive, then it was being 18 legally an adult, then 20 because for some reason 20 meant I was more of a grown up. Then came 30, I thought 30 was grown up, and as my 30’s began to trickle away, I found that the elusiveness of feeling like a grown up was still there, and as 35 turned to 36 and then there was 39 and it was a year till 40 and I still had a few things that needed working out in order to feel like a grown up…
Things that did not make me feel like a grown up…
1. Getting Married.
2. Graduating college.
3. Getting a “real job.”
4. Buying a car. (several by now have been bought)
5. Buying a house.
6. Having children
7. Going on a real vacation with the kids mentioned in number 6.
These and myriad other things are supposed to make a person feel like a grown up, or at least are supposed to be signs of being grown up. The problem is they really don’t mean that you are grown up at all. For some reason we look at milestones in life and assign huge meaning to them, and sure sometimes that makes sense, and I would never discount anyone’s accomplishments, mine included, but doing grown up things doesn’t necessarily make you a grown up. Watch any episode of 16 and Pregnant and you can see that principle played out on a regular basis.
Something happened when 40 hit though. I wish I could put my finger on exactly what it was. I think it had to do with a few things though.
Reading that verse always brought to mind toys, and games, and frivolity for some reason, but more and more in the last couple of years I have come to the realization that it has so much more meaning than the obvious. When I think and act and speak like a child, I have a decidedly me-centric view of the universe. This translates several ways and across many different aspects of daily life. My outlook has shifted in many places and ways, I think more about the people around me, how my action and inaction affects them. I think of that with my family, and with friends. I look at what is needed more than what is wanted. I don’t make nearly as many unilateral decisions any more. So sure those are ways to put away childish things.
I stopped trying to shoehorn myself into a profession that was obviously no longer a viable option for me. Sure there are youth pastors that are over 35, successful ones, called ones. I always fancied myself as the eternal youth pastor. “I’ll always be relevant.” except I’m not. I keep up with trends, I read, I listen, I watch I observe, but there comes a point when some people can do all those things and still remain engageable, and some can’t. I obviously couldn’t. This became clear during one of those vacations I talked about earlier. We were at a water park. There were all kinds of cool slides, I love roller coasters, water slides anything that goes fast and does loops all of it, usually.
There was this one water slide that Amberly really wanted to go on. We began climbing the steps to the top of the slide. Let me explain. One of the “draws” of this slide was a surprise factor. You entered the tube and stood on a platform, the operator closed the little gate behind you and you stood on said platform for whatever duration the operator saw fit, he or she would then push a button, and wammo the platform would drop and you would shoot straight down till you hit the curve of the slide. I looked at it, and at that moment realized…I don’t have anything to prove any more. Sure there was a time that I would have done it because I had to show people I wasn’t afraid, that I could do anything, fill in the blanks. That day I just didn’t care any more. I cheered my daughter on, explained that if she wanted to do it great, but that if she didn’t that was okay. She asked if I was chicken or something like that, trying to goad dad on, I’m ashamed to say there was a time when I would have said oh yea watch…to my kid. I looked at her laughed and said, I don’t really have to prove anything any more. Walking down the steps I saw a couple of other people doing the same, one guy and I looked at each other laughed and said, nope I don’t have to do this to prove I’m grown up or a man or whatever. I’m pretty sure that was the beginning of the realization that no matter how hard I tried, the relatability factor was gone on some level.
Still putting away childish things is so much more than that, especially when it comes to the spiritual side of life. I hate to admit it but there was a time when I blindly followed along behind all the people I was supposed to blindly follow along behind. It’s easy to do. Many people in Christian leadership today are what they are because it’s what they are supposed to be, and they know what they are supposed to be because their pastor, or college, or parents told them what they are supposed to be. “true christians” are supposed to be republicans, they are supposed to be against “the gays” against teen mothers, against any religion that isn’t the true American religion… They are supposed to be for prayer in school, and for hating Muslims because didn’t God say wipe out and utterly destroy people in the Old Testament? They are supposed to be for gun rights, and free speech, as long as it’s their speech, prayer in schools. Homeschooling is the preference, as is the right to refuse to be vaccinated. As a kid there was a chore list that had to be completed, you could check off the things you had done and see how right you were. Do the chores, and there was a reward, don’t do them and there was punishment. I fear that many people in America, many of my old friends, have this view of christianity. They take the chore chart, or the list and if they can check off the boxes the right way then they are good christians who get to go to Heaven.
The problem is that kind of faith is not all that personal, at least to me it’s not that personal. The more I age, the more I realize that there are so many things I had wrong. So many issues that I took for granted because I let other people tell me what it was supposed to be. Being a grown up means a faith without a check list. It means looking at someone who isn’t supposed to be able to be in a relationship with Jesus, someone who isn’t supposed to be able to claim Christ until they change and realize that they just may have a deeper relationship with the one who Died for us than I have.
If we look at the way Jesus lived, the people he talked to, the people he loved, and lived with and reached to, we don’t see that many religious people, and when some of the people who he hung out with tried to get all religious he told them to back off and stop making it so hard for people to have a relationship with him (Acts 10:9-16) Okay not in those words but what he did say was don’t tell me something is unclean if I say it’s okay. Far from being an excuse to sin, I see that whole exchange as God saying to religious people that we really don’t get it, that whosoever means whosoever, and that if we would spend more time loving people the way Jesus did, talking to people like Jesus did, and serving people like Jesus did, God will do what He promises through the Holy Spirit, he will begin to mold them and shape them and remove the things that need to be removed, he will bring conviction where it needs to be, and he will bring joy when that is needed, and peace where it is needed, and well you get the point.
For me putting away childish things, leaving it all behind happened when I began to realize that I don’t have to do the checklists to be a Christ Follower, I don’t have to build check lists for others, I don’t have to try to convict someone of their sin. It’s not my job to “save” a person.
If I am willing to live Gods word in front of people, if I am willing to show who Jesus is by walking with them, sharing their pain, celebrating their successes and giving them the truth even when it isn’t comfortable to do so, then I’ve left behind the check list christianity, the childish form of christianity that is all about the rewards that come from a life of faith and I’ve grown up. I’ve put away the need for constant affirmation, for a much deeper more meaningful life.
Sure there are times I want to hear hey good job. There are times that I see someone walking down a path that I know is going to lead them farther away from God than they should ever be, and in those times it’s so much easier to tell them what they are doing is wrong, than it is to walk with them and live in community with them, and earn the trust that they need to have in me so that I can with Love, and compassion and grace try and help them find a way back to relationship with God that is more about being like Him than it is about getting the blessings that come from doing things the right way.
When a group of lepers came to Jesus to be healed only one came back to thank him. Tradition tells us the one that returned was a Samaritan. The other nine rushed off to fill in the check boxes that would let them rejoin society, the one that came back and thanked Jesus was told to go his way. I always looked at that as an indictment on the other nine but more and more I see something more important playing out. We know that when Jesus came the old way of doing things was going to be removed. The old covenant was not going to be needed, the old commandments were going to be changed to a new one. We know this and what I see in that one guy returning and Jesus telling him to go his way, is a really neat picture of what a living moving breathing adult relationship with God is all about. No longer do I need to seek approval from the people in charge. I don’t need to be told i’m doing okay by a pastor, or a leader of an organization. I am now a grown up, with a grown up faith. Grown up faith is scary. Putting away the childish things, the checklists and rules, and regulations, means I have to deal with the hard stuff, I have to face the fact that Jesus wants more out of me.
Sure there are days that I look back and wish for the ease of a blind faith that was easy. Then I see what happens with that kind of faith, and I watch as people are turned off from God because of that type of faith and I turn around and get on with being a grown up.
See ya around the blog. As always comments are encouraged…