The Importance of Maturity
Previous articles, The Importance of Flexibility and The Importance of Boundaries, address the need to relax our rules while holding to Godly principles. Where does one learn the difference? Maturity.
Children still exploring their world don’t know yet how to evaluate alternatives or predict dangerous consequences. They need growth, guidance, instruction, and tighter boundaries than adults adhere to. No crossing the street without holding an adult’s hand, no pouring the orange juice from a full gallon jug, and no staying up for the 24-7 superhero marathon. (This adult still needs that boundary).
As kids get older, stronger, and more thoughtful, these boundaries can be stretched and more flexibility introduced. Perhaps an alternate route to school or learning to make their own grilled cheese sandwiches.
Scripture reveals the same pattern. God established boundaries first, and from our perspective they seem rather tight. From His perspective, there are dangerous consequences that His children weren’t ready to predict.
They were instructed to stay away from their neighbors until they learned how things work in His family. Oh the beauty of the parent who says “In our family, we…” We could learn more about how things work in God’s family. For example,
“Other people may claw, scream, and lie to get what they want, but in our family, we practice grace, patience, love, and above all, trust in our Heavenly Father.”
Centuries after those formative years, Jesus made it clear that He expected more maturity from those who were called God’s family. Samaritans were not to be avoided, but to be given the opportunity to join the family. Romans and other Gentiles who sought to follow God were not to be excluded based solely on their heritage. Rules about pure conduct were to be applied to the thoughts and attitudes, which would then naturally flow to behaviors.
As maturing children learn self-regulation, parents lead them to explore a world much larger than the house and back yard. Maturity includes learning to trust others, trust yourself, and how to decide who not to trust. It involves learning how to learn, so that new ideas can be imagined, examined, and attempted independently.
Maturity is a process, mostly unseen from day to day, yet it requires daily practice. A baby doesn’t get up at ten-months and start running across the living room – not without having stepped and stumbled under careful supervision for a few months prior. There’s strength, balance, confidence, and deliberate training involved.
Likewise, God doesn’t expect us to have it all together within weeks of joining His family. What He does expect is that we, His family, come alongside newly adopted members with grace and invitations to learn His ways and practice following Him.
Even mature people mess up occasionally. They may have wrong information, not enough perspective, no time to consider options, or the human realities of being hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. That’s when we confess, forgive, learn, and move forward. It’s how we do things in God’s family, because our Father says so.