“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”
– 1 Corinthians 13:11
There was a time when no idea seemed more magical than that of being a grown-up.
Countless hours of rigorous training were invested in “helping” in the kitchen, playing house, shuffling around in mom’s heels and pretending to drive from the back seat. These skills were, no doubt, what it would take to become a successful adult!
Every birthday was one step closer to the ultimate goal.
As I scan my peers now, at age 35, I’ll admit, I sometimes find myself wondering:
“Where are all the adults?”
Why, when we spent so much of our early lives pining for the days of adulthood, do so many of us choose to stop short of it?
While appearing to be adults, in function, many haven’t left adolescence. We pay our own rent, buy our own food, know our way around the kitchen and some of us can even walk in heels! Yet, it turns out, those are not the things that make an adult.
Perhaps our time of training would have been better spent on other skills, but what skills?? Recently, as I’ve pondered this question, I keep coming back to one thought…
Nothing has more power to influence our lives than the ability to make good decisions.
If this is true, we should be avidly committed to learning this skill.
“I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.”
Children think about themselves.
They think about right now.
They think about what they want.
They don’t think about the future or the consequences of their choices.
Children don’t make their own decisions—their parents make decisions for them.
There is a good reason for this! Selfish-momentary-emotional-unconsidered-decisionmaking does not lead to a healthy life.
Children need to learn how to make good decisions. It has to be taught, discussed and modelled.
A parent’s job, even as they make decisions for their children, is to prepare their children for a time when they will not be making choices for them.
As children grow, good parents begin to release the responsibility of decision making to them bit by bit.
Typically speaking, the more freedom they are given, the more they will want. And that’s OK. The instinct to leave childhood behind is a healthy one. We were not made to remain children forever.
But, things often get ugly (literally and figuratively) when these—no longer children and not yet adults—attempt the leap between childhood and adulthood.
It would be nice if we could skip adolescence completely, but the value of this season is learning to reason for yourself.
This season has a reputation for mistakes and missteps. They too are a part of learning. Sometimes the most effective teacher is pain. She can serve us well if we listen to her. Experiencing the consequences of poor decisions can save us from making the same mistakes again and again.
Teenagers don’t want anyone making their decisions for them—they want to express their independence.
Childhood meant being under their parent’s control, so it’s no surprise many teenagers rebel against their parents’ input. They struggle to free themselves from the bonds of childhood and swing to the opposite end of the spectrum.
The danger at this stage is developing the misconception that, since adulthood is beyond childhood, it is the opposite of childhood. Therefore, since decisions were made for them as children, they ought to function autonomously as adults.
Once they’ve spread their wings and tasted sweet-independence, the idea of receiving input from parents or others leaves a bitter taste in their mouths.
Our postmodern society hasn’t done us any favours either.
It has sold us a lie– the lie that we deserve to be “happy” above all else and should only pursue the things that guarantee this end. With this as our guiding star, we’ve been given permission to live selfishly. To seeking only what we want. To care only about ourselves. To not consider the consequences of our behaviour.
Society has given us permission to keep making decisions like children.
No wonder we would have a generation of missing adults. They’ve not graduated from adolescence. They’ve remained instead in a state of extended childhood, resisting advice, convinced they know best.
“I gave up childish ways.”
This begs the question:
“How are we meant to make adult decisions?”
The book of Proverbs has much to say on the subject. Here are a few of the highlights…
“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,
and forsake not your mother’s teaching,
For they are a graceful garland for your head
and pendants for your neck.”
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in our own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.”
“Where there is no guidance, a people falls,
but in an abundance of counsellors there is safety.”
Over the course of our lives, our ability to think and reason grows, but our pride should shrink.
Receiving advice from others does not make you less of an adult!
Adults involve God and wise counsel in decision-making.
I’d wager most Christians don’t feel embarrassed to seek God’s input in decision-making. It’s the spiritually acceptable thing to do.
The Bible doesn’t stop with advising that we ask for God’s guidance though. It clearly advocates involving wise and trusted people in decision-making. This circle may vary, but for many, it would include parents, mentors, pastors and discerning friends.
As adults, our parents take a new role in our lives. They transitioning out of being our primary authority, and (hopefully) into being our most trusted advisors—a shift which requires humility on both parts.
On our part, the humility to listen. To admit our parents have experience and wisdom we could benefit from.
On our parents’ parts, humility to accept that after giving their guidance, they need to step back and let us make our own choices.
By seeking guidance from the Bible, God, parents and trusted others, we get to draw from their wisdom. There is safety and support within this. They can keep us from disaster by helping us see things we haven’t considered yet or challenge our wrong attitudes and poor reasoning. They can even encourage us in making the right choices that we are afraid to step out in.
In much the same way as our natural parents want us to leave childhood and become healthy functioning adults, our Heavenly Father wants us to leave spiritual childhood and become healthy functioning spiritual adults.
As children, we had to be told what to do. We had to be taught what was right. We needed others to reason on our behalf. Now, as we live adult lives of faith, we can also expect to engage with God in an adult way.
We should seek God’s guidance even more diligently than that of our earthly counsellors, His wisdom trumps all others. But at the end of the day, He has entrusted us to make decisions. We do not need to live in fear of missing His “plan”. His design is not control–He wants to make decisions with us, not for us. He intended us for adulthood.
So… Grow Up
Now that the dream is a reality, I can report that being a grown-up isn’t as magical as I’d imagined it would be.
Admittedly, I enjoy driving, having nice shoes and going to bed as late as I want (or, more realistically, as early as I want). I feel less enthusiastic, however, about cleaning up after myself, paying bills and doing what is right and responsible instead of what I want to.
As un-magical as it is, it’s inarguably worth reaching for!
My challenge for all of us is this:
Let’s not look back from the other side of our mistakes, wishing we had asked for input when we still had the chance to benefit from it. God has placed people in our lives we can and should reach out to for guidance. Let’s discard independence and begin to function out of a collective wisdom!