As a child, did you ever do that thing most kids do where someone asks you what you want to "be" when you grow up and you declare something like astronaut, fireman, nurse, doctor, or the like? The "what do you want to be" question haunts us for about 18+ years into our college years when we somehow are expected to know what it is we want to do with the rest of our lives. I know many a college student who "goes to" college or university, only to take a good two years of studies just as a way of trying to again "figure out" what whey are going to be when they "grow up". It is sort of like "going" will somehow create this excitement in you that will settle the question. The truth is, we often pursue things we think will bring us fulfillment in life without any real assurance they will. I know many a person who invested a great deal of money and time into pursuing one career only to find it wasn't really what they wanted "to be" when they grew up! If someone asks me that same question, I tell them to wait until I grow up and I'll let them know!
Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Tolerate one another in an atmosphere thick with love. (Ephesians 4:2 VOICE)
There are a couple of things we need to "be" AS we are on this pathway to "growing up" - humble, gentle, patient, and loving. We kind of get this "growing up" think "right" when we embrace these four attributes along the way! It is sort of like no matter what we are "becoming" in the sense of career or "position" in life, we are "becoming" the right kind of person along the way!
- If growing up doesn't make you humble, nothing will! The process of growth is a truly humbling experience - for no real "growth" takes place apart from having the right attitude toward one's self-importance and self-ability. The truly humble man or woman knows they don't make it on their own, nor do they "make it" to the point of full development in life without some stumbles along the way. Humility is learned in the times we stumble, but also in the times we come to recognize each stumble is an opportunity to "need" someone in our life outside of ourselves. We need Jesus in our lives, but we also need each other to help us embrace what Jesus is teaching us along the way and hold us accountable to the truths we are learning.
- Not all of growth will be "gentle" in how it occurs, but there is a certain gentleness which comes in the midst of growth. As I watch things sprout up in the garden, I notice there is some tenacious growth at first, but the "fruit" of the tomato plant comes not in sudden bursts of growth, but in the slow and consistent, gentle development which occurs over time. We don't always grow up in dynamic spurts of energetic ways. Sometimes we need a little gentleness in the mix to help us embrace what is occurring, but also to accept the process taking a little longer than we may have hoped! When we think of growing up, gentleness with each other is that period of time when we allow what is transpiring on the inside to just "mellow" a little - not demanding the evidence of development, but waiting until we see it finally begin to show the hints of "ripening".
- Patience is one of the hardest parts of "growing up". When we were kids, we wanted to do things the bigger kids got to do, didn't we? We didn't understand why the big kids got to ride two-wheel bikes when we had to ride a tricycle. We didn't understand our balance wasn't developed yet well enough to allow us to ride the two-wheel bike. Even when we did take off on that first ride on the two-wheeler, we probably still had training wheels! That meant we went from a three-wheel bike to a four-wheel bike - just in case you weren't counting! We perceived we were taking a huge step forward in our growth, but in fact, we were needing a little more support than we might have imagined! Growth in a spiritual, emotional, or "maturity" kind of way really isn't making huge moves without a little bit of the "training wheel" kind of moments along the way! We imagine we are growing leaps and bounds, but we are just as "dependent" upon the training wheels to keep us upright for a while as we were on the "tripod" kind of set-up a tricycle gave us while we were developing the skill of just "riding" through life. It is not something to be ashamed of, but a natural thing to need support along the way as we are growing up. To be patient with ourselves and others as this growing process is underway is one of the greatest gifts we can embrace.
- Lastly, we need to love one another and what it is God is doing within us individually and as a "team" during this growth process. Growing up is kind of a "team sport", my friends. First, we get the best coaches in the whole wide world - Jesus and his counterpart, the Holy Spirit. We get the most concise and precise rule book to help guide us in our learning along the way - the Bible. We get the greatest audience to watch us make strides in our team's progress - God the Father and a plethora of heavenly hosts. In all of this, we come to a place where we have to genuinely be "in love" with the process of learning to work together, as well as learning to "love each other" as a member of the "team". We don't just get along in life - we have a whole lot of "practice" in learning how to support one another, challenge the other guy in a way which doesn't break him down, but encourages him to try again, and developing together so we come out stronger because of the time we have spent learning with each other. Just sayin!