In my next series, I will endea
vor to put into words some of the things I have learned (and am learning) through experience and God’s Word about growing up. I am by no means claiming to have “arrived.” I am simply trying my best to live out God’s specific plan for my life and pass along whatever insights I learn along the way.
All people are unique and God has a specific plan for each of us. The right road for one is the wrong road for another. The journey of life is not paved in blacktop; it is not brightly lit like the “Yellow Brick Road.” It is a rocky path through the wilderness. It is not a linear road where we take one step after another in a straightforward progression. That is not what the road is like. Rather, it is a series of twists and turns, and there is nothing simple or straightforward about it.
Just as Adam was banished from the Garden of Eden because of his sin and could not go back, neither can we. We can only go forward. To go back would be like trying to return to our mother’s womb, to infancy. Since we cannot go back, we must grow up. We can only go forward through the twists and turns of life, making our way over parched and barren ground.
When I was a child, growing up seemed very attractive to me. Most children dream of what they will become when they “grow up.” Now that I am an adult, I recognize the value of growing up even more. There are many ways in which we must grow up. This is an extremely important truth because a great deal of our problems arise out of the attempt to get back to infancy and not grow up.
We must go forward through the desert, but that journey is hard and often painful. And so most people stop their journey as quickly as they can. They find what looks like a safe place, burrow their head, and stay there; rather than go forward through the painful desert, which is filled with cactuses, thorns, and sharp rocks. Even for those who have been taught that the process of growth is valuable, the education of the desert is so painful that they discontinue it as early as they can.
What causes the refusal to grow up? Those who stop learning and growing early in their lives stop changing. They become fixed and lapse into what psychology calls their “second childhood.” They become whiny, demanding, and self-centered. But this is not because they have entered their second childhood. They have never left their first and the veneer of adulthood is worn thin, revealing the emotional child that lurks underneath.
The same is true for Christians who do not grow up spiritually and remain immature in the faith. I know many people who look like adults, but are actually emotional and spiritual children, walking around in adult’s clothing. There are relatively few adults who come out of immaturity, who are no longer willing to tolerate their own childishness. The rest of the population never manages to fully grow up. And so we need to comfort each other on our journey as we struggle along our rocky path and our pain.
More often than not, the most healing thing that we can do with someone who is in pain, rather than trying to get rid of that pain, is to sit there and be willing to share it. We have to learn to hear and bear other people’s pain. We need to become more conscious and sensitive of their burdens and sorrows. Talking is not nearly as important as being available for those who are suffering. Those who are hurting need to be loved, just as Christ loves us.
As we grow up, we can take on more and more of other people’s pain, and then the most amazing thing happens: the more pain we are willing to take on, the more joy we will begin to feel. Jesus took on tremendous pain when He died for the sins of the world. How much pain and sorrow are you and I willing to take on out of love for one another?