I remember growing up in the 70's. I wanted to be a pilot, ocean liner captain, train engineer, police officer, and general all-around hero to the masses. I remember watching men land on the moon and being amazed at all the scientific discoveries happening around the world. I loved studying World War II history and these big giant machines called computers showing up all over the place. Star Wars opened up whole new worlds of adventure. The possibilities were endless and daydreaming made it all possible.
I also remember working hard. My parents expected my brothers and me to take part in family life through our chores. Cleaning our rooms, taking care of the yard, doing the dishes and so much more were all part of growing up. We had to do our part for the family to function well. We learned that privilege and blessing come with a price. It was called work and what we didn't know was that our parents were actually helping us to grow up.
We never doubted our parents’ love for us but at times it seemed they were awfully hard on us. Truth is, I am glad that my parents pushed me hard. It made grow up. I learned that I had to take responsibility for things in life. I needed to "pay my dues" if I wanted to experience the best that life had to offer. I couldn't sit around or ignore my responsibilities. There was plenty of time to play and goof off, but the work needed to get done first. No work = no reward.
The excitement of my childhood dreams began to be framed by the reality of hard work and discipline. I was going to have to grow up and become a man.
As I look around today, I see in our culture a level of immaturity that was not present in decades past. Today, we are experiencing a lack of maturity in so many critical areas. The government, business, religion, education, parenting, and so many other areas of our society are experiencing the negative effects of a culture of entitlement, disdain for the blessings of age, and an unwillingness to accept responsibility. Failed leaders, businesses, and churches are all products of this new reality.
How did we get here? I don't want to point fingers or name names, but I think there are a lot of factors that have lead us to this point. The "me" generation, divorce, helicopter parents, easy access to money, and a "win the lottery" mentality, rather than a "work hard, pay your dues" mentality, have all taken us to this place where many delay growing up, being responsible, and working hard. We seem to want to avoid growing up because frankly, it's hard!
The bible talks about this in 1 Corinthians 13:11 when it says "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." I think there are a few things we can glean from this verse:
1. Life is a process of growing into maturity. There is a place where childish thinking is appropriate. But that is not where we are to stay.
2. Maturity is the goal. The expectation is that as we grow in maturity, we will set aside childish thinking.
3. Growing up is something to look forward to and be embraced.
If these things are true and the goal of a life well lived, what are we to do? I don't believe it is realistic to think that our efforts alone will change the culture at large; However, I do believe that we can change our immediate world and affect the world of those around us. The question is how? Here are a couple of ideas:
1. Make the decision to grow up and be responsible in all areas of your life - relationships, work, faith, community. If you don't start here, you will stay right where you are.
2. Realize that you are a living example to those around you - adults and children alike. People are watching. What you do tells people what you value and what's acceptable. Your kids and others will model what they see in you.
3. Learn to love delayed gratification. Only children believe that they "deserve" everything right now. Grown ups know that you have to work hard and, in time, you might get what you desire.
4. Choose to see the blessing of hard work and sacrifice. This is countercultural but it's what mature people do to achieve their dreams and goals.
These are not the only things that we should do, but they are a start. Admittedly, there is a lot in each one of these steps. However, I believe that if each one of us, within our own lives and relationships, puts these steps into practice, not only will we keep growing to maturity, but we will send the message to those who are watching, as well as those affected by our actions, that this is the better way.
Growing up is hard work, but it's worth it. So set aside those areas of your life that hold you back, step up, and get going!
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