Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. (Ephesians 4:11-16 MSG)
The idea of maturity carries several very focused meanings. First, there is this idea of being fully developed. Having lived with some fruit trees in my backyard as a kid, I know it takes some time for the fruit to come to a place of being developed enough to actually eat it. As an orange "matures", it goes from a solid green color, to a light yellow, and then a full-bodied orange color. The chance you take in plucking it too early from the tree is the arresting of the maturing process. You might see it continue to change color a little, but the "full-bodied" taste of the orange is produced best while it still attached to the source of its maturing! Now, in a spiritual sense, the place of maturing for a believer is not detached from the branch! It is in finding a good connection with others who will actually aid your development that maturity is realized.
Second, readiness is evident in maturity. If you have ever waited any length of time for a child to be "ready" to leave for a destination they may not actually "want" to go to, you will know exactly what I am speaking of here! The child "knows" the destination - but they aren't "ready" to get there. They dilly-dally with the silliest things - taking forever to find their shoes, comb their hair, and get their jacket from the last place they threw it aside. Now, if we are still doing this as we come into adulthood, most of us would never make it out the door to work in the morning! We learn to do even the things which don't really thrill us - because we have come to a place of maturity which "overrides" our desire to stay in bed! There is a readiness to arise in the morning, greet the new day and its challenges, and then come home to do it all over again. In the spiritual sense, readiness is a key indicator of our level of maturity. When God asks us to take a step with him, do we balk? Or are we "ready" to move into what he has for us?
So, how is it we get to this place of maturity, complete in every way? I don't know about you, but I haven't arrived yet, but I am on the journey! Maturity is more than a "time" in life - it is a consistent development process, never fully ended until it is ended. My pastor says the biggest room in your house should be the room for improvement (Pastor Chad Moore). If you think about this, he is right. When we think about being mature, we sometimes think we have arrived at a point in life where there is no further need for "maturing" - almost like a wine maker might say a wine has reached its "perfection". None of us actually reaches the point of perfection - if we think we do, we are only fooling ourselves.
The best we can ever do is stay in a place which allows us to mature - like the orange attached to the tree. If we begin to see the resources God has provided for our growth (maturity), we will begin to see the benefit of being rightly connected for however long it takes! Ever eat fruit which is ripened too quickly - it lacks taste, may be a little bitter, and is dry. In contrast, the fruit which is allowed to develop to its point of maturity "connected" to its source of development has not only a different appearance on the outside, but the inside is quite different, too. The pulp of a mature orange is full of juice - it has a robust taste, emanates a pleasant aroma, and is sweet to the one taking it in. The same is true of spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. Stay connected to the source of maturity and you will find you produce a "robust" taste, a pleasant aroma, and are not as bitter!
The outside may be deceiving - just looking mature doesn't make us mature. It is in focusing on what is on the inside that we begin to actually "actualize" maturity. Readiness is a result of preparation. Being complete is a result of being perfected. When we want to do well at something, we just don't launch out and expect to do it well the first time. We have to prepare - to perfect our skill. Let's not get the cart before the horse - we have lots and lots of room for improvement in our lives before any of us can actually say we are "mature". Just sayin!