I’ve been wrong about a lot. I didn’t think the Braves would ever win a World Series. I didn’t think that skinny jeans would ever catch on. I thought that I would never want a Smartphone.
I’ve definitely missed a LOT of marks.
Of course, when it comes to the weightier matters of life, I’ve definitely been wrong. One of the areas where I have deceived myself has been in the area of maturity. I’m convinced that I have been wrong about Christian growth and maturity for many years.
When we’re young, we’re told that “growing up” is about doing things alone.
Self-Sufficiency is the goal.
You go to the bathroom “all by yourself.”
You tie your shoe “all by yourself.”
You shower, go to bed, and get up in the morning “all by yourself.”
“All by myself” becomes a watermark for development – and for pride. That’s fine for children. But what about for adults?
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)
I thought that, as an adult, I should be completely self-sufficient. I shouldn’t need anyone. In my over-spiritualized imagination, I also shouldn’t need anything.
Backing up a chapter in 1 Corinthians:
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”1 Corinthians 12:12-21
That last phrase, “I don’t need you!” That’s the rub!
In my convoluted understanding of maturity, I used to believe an equation.
Here it is:
“The more mature I am, the less needy I will become.”
That’s not true.
It may be true for kids up to a point, but it’s not true for spiritual maturity. It’s a breeding ground for pride and conceit.
“All by myself” as a child is an appropriate type of pride. “All by myself” as an adult who is looking to grow in Christ is dangerous.
So, here’s my new equation:
“The more mature I am, the more I will recognize my need.”
As I mature I should have a better awareness of myself. I should understand how needy I am. Christian growth then, is a matter of acting on that realization. It looks like this:
“When I recognize my need, I will acknowledge it. Then, I will seek help from Christ and His church for that need.”
This is all basic stuff. It shouldn’t have taken me this long in life to grasp it. But there it is.
Maturity isn’t about needing less.
It’s about seeing how needy you are and crying out to Christ for help. He has a vast ocean of grace at your disposal.
Want to know more about growing in Christ? I highly recommend this book: Among Wolves: Disciple-Making in the City