Some things in life can only be described to a point, and then must be experienced. In this light, maturing in the Spirit and growing up in Christ is a new world known only to those who live there. Nevertheless, there is some benefit is having breadcrumbs along the way so that we have some hint of what we are looking for. We do have some clues as to what it feels like to grow up in Christ, at least enough to know when we have a ways to go.
What It Means to Grow Up
What is the primary difference between an adult and a child? Most of us who are considered “adults” can probably testify that we are unsure when we became adults, and often wonder if we really are. There is one subjective difference, however, and that is NEED. Children need so much. They need provided for, given attention to, stimulated, and educated. At some point in our life, if we are seeking maturity at all, we change from needing more than we give to giving more than we need.
Spiritual Children Needing Fed
...Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
- John 21:17b (NJB)
So as in the material world, so is the spiritual world. When we are children in the faith, we are so NEEDY. We need affirmation, we need educated, and we need loved. We are unsure of ourselves and our place in the world. If you are young in Christ, you can feel a sense of restlessness with you at all times, as if you are always missing something. We are looking for that next piece of encouragement, the next great message, the next great Bible study, etc.
The Dark Night of the Soul - Spiritual Puberty
The transition from spiritual childhood to spiritual maturity is painful for one big reason: it is the journey from changing our superficial beliefs to changing our fundamental character. Part of the reason we keep needing that next Bible study, that next retreat, or that next inspirational sermon is because those are the easy things to consume. The hard things require examining our fundamental cultural assumptions, our ingrained habits, and our deepest prejudices. This journey purges us from our fears, our worldly desires, and our pride.
The happy lot of the soul, then, consists of being led by God into this night from which so great a blessing results, but into which it could not have entered of itself,because no one is able in his own strength to empty his heart of all desires, so as to draw near unto God.
- St. John of the Cross
The Need Inversion - Growing Up to Feed Others
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them... I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
- 1 Corinthians 9:19 & 22b (ESV)
Growing up in Christ is an amazing feeling of freedom and clarity. Once the dark desires, envious competitiveness, and suspicious prejudices of the heart are purged we find that we NEED so little, and have so MUCH to give. You don’t meet new people wondering, “What do they think of me?” but instead see the need for love in others and ask yourself, “What can I do to show them they have value?”
Yeah, Yeah… But What Does It FEEL Like?
It feels like abundance. It feels like having a million dollars in your pocket at all times (from back when you cared about money, that is). It feels like you always have a substantial purpose in any situation to show others how much they are loved and valued.
You may be thinking, “If are writing this, you must consider yourself spiritually grown up. Isn’t that a bit… presumptuous?” Well, yes, it would be. I don’t consider myself to have fully grown at all, but I have tasted it. I don’t think anyone ever gets to feel this spiritual inversion all the time. We all NEED from time to time, no matter how mature we are. But as our need wanes, our power to do good in this world GROWS, and it feels good, very good.