I woke up thinking about what it means to be mature, both physically and spiritually.  I had a chance to spend some time with a new friend yesterday who has a young son.  She had to watch him vigilantly, get him to look at her when she talked to him and speak to him in a very simple, straight forward way.  She had to address him often because he is not yet mature and needs instruction for most tasks.  I remember when my own sons were like this.  I can tell they have matured by how much less I talk to them to instruct them and how much more I talk with them just for the joy of their conversation.

This morning we had to leave early to go to church because I was teaching the little ones at both services.  I let the boys know last night that it was my turn to teach on Sunday and that’s all I had to say to them.  They are old enough to get themselves up on time, get dressed, grab something to eat, get their teeth brushed and be ready at the time we have to leave.  I didn’t have to watch over them every step of the way.  They knew what they had to do and did it.  This left me time to focus on getting my props loaded in the van and other little jobs done.

It’s funny how God often directs us without really knowing it.  I was thinking about maturity and today’s sermon was on how God speaks to us.  When we are immature Christians, he has to speak to us in very obvious ways.  He has to get our attention and maybe at this stage we receive signs or other indications that it is God who is directing us.  He has to be obvious because we just aren’t mature enough to get it otherwise.  As we grow spiritually, God often speaks less to us or at least it’s not in such obvious ways.  This is because we are maturing.  He doesn’t have to take us by the hand as much anymore.   He can trust that we’ll be directed by the principles of His word.  He treats us like I treat my growing boys.  I give them a little direction now but for the most part I expect that they’ll know what to do with it.  They’ve been with me a while and have come to understand how things work.

My boys aren’t offended that I’m not there telling them what to do every step of the way.  It doesn’t tick them off that I let them make their own decisions more often.  I want them to become more independent.  The don’t always make good decisions but even that is an opportunity for growth and maturity.  If I never give them the chance to make a bad decision I’m not really helping them reach adulthood.  I think God is the same.  There was a time in my life when I heard his voice clearly and obviously but that is much less the case now.  Unlike my sons, though, I sometimes get upset that God isn’t telling me what to do.  I think now that He’s just giving me the opportunity to grow up spiritually.  In essence, He’s saying that I have been with Him long enough to know how He works and He trusts me to make good decisions.  If I start to go off, He’ll be faithful and redirect me but he’s not going to treat me like a three year old anymore.

The whole idea of this is strangely comforting.  I was beginning to think that I must not be very spiritual at all because honestly it’s been a long time since I’ve clearly heard God speak to me.  I’m going about my merry way hoping and thinking that I’m in God’s will but I don’t have signs from beyond assuring me that I am.  Rather than that being a sign of waning spirituality perhaps it is a sign rather of growing spirituality.  If I really think about it, I don’t speak that often with my parents anymore.  When we do it’s more to enjoy each other’s company than for me to be instructed by them.  That time has passed.  They’ve done their best and now they have to leave me to make my own choices.  They hope that I will choose well but it’s out of their hands and they know that I will experience the blessing or the repercussion depending on how I choose.

The other sign of maturity that came to mind was becoming less self-centered.  Very young children don’t have much of a concept that there are other people in the world with needs.  As far as they are concerned they are the center of the universe and they want things to revolve around them.  They fuss when it doesn’t and sometimes throw tantrums.  As they grow older and mature, they learn that there are other people to consider.  One of the greatest blessings of getting married and becoming a parent is having to think of others and not just yourself.  As a wife and mother, I have often had to lay aside my wishes, desires and sometimes even my needs for the sake of my family.  This ability to sacrifice myself for the betterment of those around me is an indication of maturity.  I think the same is true of spiritual maturity.  It bugs me when people who have been going to church twenty, thirty, forty years whine that the service didn’t meet their needs.  They ought to be spiritually mature enough to meet their own needs.  They ought to know how to feed themselves on the word of God at that point and not be dependent on a pastor to spoon feed them.  They ought to be able to lay aside their own needs for the sake of those who are new to the faith and really do have to be fed by someone more mature than them.  They ought to be the hand holding the spoon.  They ought to come with spiritual words of their own that can add to the meal the pastor has prepared.  The church service shouldn’t be about them but about how they can meet the needs of a growing family.  I can’t help but think that this attitude would bring about quicker spiritual maturity than a thousand Bible studies or sermon sit-ins.  The act of parenting has caused me to mature far more than reading any books on the subject has or listening to any lectures given by an expert.  It’s getting in there, thinking about others and doing the work where one really learns and grows.

Of course, I blog all this because God didn’t give me these thoughts to lecture others on how they should be.  He gave them because there are areas where I need to grow up and rather than taking the chance of messing up, I’m whining that certain things aren’t meeting my needs.  I’m being nudged to leadership of a group and I’m not liking it.  It’s so much easier to be a child and fuss that things aren’t going the way I like than to be mature and take action for the benefit of others.  Becoming an adult is work.  It means taking on responsibility.  I didn’t know a lot about parenting when I was blessed with my first son.  I learned through trial and error and a lot of prayer.  I became dependant on God on a whole new level and grew spiritually as a result.  Being a leader will be the same.  I don’t feel equipped for it.  I don’t think I’ll execute the job flawlessly.  I will have to step out in faith and depend on God to do the work through me.  I will have to trust  that through me, He can bless others.  I’m not exactly sure how this will all play itself out but I have a feeling I’m in for some life lessons and that God intends it for growth in me as much as he does to help others.