I marveled as I watched my eldest, robed in blue, swagger up to the platform: How on earth did this miracle baby grow into a 6-foot, 18-year-old young man, ready to grab the world by its tail and head to college? Is he really ready to handle his own finances, manage his life, move forward into adulthood - without me?!
I’m not whining, really! If Matthew still needed me to take care of him, if he couldn’t function without his mom and dad, if he felt too ill-equipped and insecure to venture beyond his childhood home, then we would not have done our job. He is ready to navigate the challenges of life with discernment –to live out his unique God-given calling, relying on His wisdom, and knowing when to seek wisdom from teachers, friends, mentors (and yes, hopefully, sometimes, even us!).
In short, maturity for a young man leaving home is, at least in part, related to growing in independence from his parents.
So, what is maturity in God’s dictionary?
I know how I would have answered 10 years ago:
Doing more “right things” and fewer “wrong things”
Not being tempted any more
Emotional stability, no matter my circumstances
Having a more upbeat, extroverted personality
Serving more, reading the Bible more, praying more, _______ more (fill in the blank!)
But that’s not it at all, I know now. Maturity is less about the external measurements we might take of ourselves or others; it’s more about knowing Jesus deeply, growing in dependence upon Him more, and upon myself and others less. Of course, this will be reflected in the externals: behavior, attitude, demeanor. But those externals are not the measure of maturity in Christ. My relationship with Him and dependence upon Him are.
Here are a few depictions of maturity from God’s Word:
Being filled with Jesus, so that we are not swayed by the variety of ideas and false teachings that assault us every day. Maturity means our words are characterized by truth and love. (Ephesians 4:13-15)
Trusting that the God who called you to Himself is always at work in you, maturing you from your first day to your final one on earth. (Philippians 1:6)
An active dependence upon God, who works in us, in our desires and choices for His glory. (Philippians 2:13)
Seeing the bigger picture when our faith is tested by suffering. Maturity means choosing to continue to trust God in spite of what we see, enduring through the hard times as well as the easier days. (James 1:2-4)
Walking steadily in faith and growing closer to Jesus, and choosing to thank God daily along the way. (Colossians 2:6-7)
Exercising faith in Christ in your daily life, which causes faith to grow strong, and multiplies love for others (2 Thessalonians 1:3)
In short, spiritual maturity is related to growing in dependence upon Jesus.
Jesus Himself (undeniably the most spiritually mature person who ever lived!) depended upon the Father in this way. In John 5: 19 & 30, He said:
“I assure you: The Son is not able to do anything on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son also does these things in the same way . . . I can do nothing on My own. I judge only as I hear, and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (See also John 6:38, 12:49-50, 14:10, 17:4)
Matthew, my firstborn, even as you grow into independence from your earthly mom and dad, may you grow in dependence upon your Truest Father, who will always be with you (and whose Spirit lives within you) wherever you go.
May you continue to grow: in responsibility, in love and compassion toward others, in your skills and abilities, in problem-solving, in facing the challenges that lie ahead. And may you grow in Christ: in trusting Him more and more in those responsibilities, in the love you share with others, in your wisdom and abilities as you navigate your life with an ever-deepening dependence upon Him.