Moving Towards True Being: The long Process of Maturity

When I first heard that the topic for this month’s synchroblog was “Maturity” I was excited. I even wrote a blog right away with some random thoughts on maturity. But, then it came time to actually write my synchroblog post and I didn’t really know what to write. I found that I couldn’t really write until I answered one important question:

What is maturity?

So, of course, I went were any respectable blogger would go for an answer, Wikipedia. Here’s what it said:

“Maturity is a psychological term used to indicate that a person responds to the circumstances or environment in an appropriate manner.”

Well, that makes sense, but it seemed to be missing something. So, I went to other sources…

My beautiful mother-in-law described maturity this way:

“To be able to exhibit the fruits of the spirit. To be kind, even though we are not treated kindly. To see others with heavenly eyes, not earthly ones. Allow our speech to be seasoned with grace and be patient with those who are in a different part of that process than we are. To be able to be childlike , without being childish. To never lose our sense of awe and wonderment, even after knowing all that we do about our world. To show hospitality to others in a way that makes them feel special and welcome without regard for our own self. To look for the positive in not only others, but our situation. To have an attitude that not only is a sweet incense to God, but attracts and uplifts those around us.”

I love the picture she paints, but there was something else that maturity seemed to be to me personally that those definitions and descriptions where touching on but not really getting at. After reading a few more things and talking to a few more people, it dawned on me.

I think maturity is the long process of becoming more and more the people we are suppose to be. It’s the process of reaching our full potential as unique individuals. A tree is said to be mature when it has grown from a seedling and has reached its full potential as a tree. A person is mature when they have grown into the full potential of being exactly and fully the person that God desires for them to be. Maturity is not just acting appropriately in a given situation (though that may come with maturity), maturity is a movement that draws us into true being.

I found this quote and I think it sums up much of what I really think maturity is at its heart:

“Becoming [mature] means that the individual moves toward being, knowingly and acceptingly, the process which he inwardly and actually is. He moves away from being what he is not, from being a façade. He is not trying to be more than his is, with the attendant feelings of insecurity or bombastic defensiveness. He is not trying to be less than he is, with the attendant feelings of guilt or self-depreciation. He is increasingly listening to the deepest recesses of his psychological and emotional being, and finds himself increasingly willing to be, with greater accuracy and depth, that self which he most truly is.”

I think maturity is also a process that requires surrender. At some point in order to really become mature, in order to really reach our full potential as sons and daughters of God, we must surrender to His hand and allow Him to mold and shape us.

George MacDonald writes:

“The one secret of life and development is not to devise and plan, but to fall in with the forces at work – to do every moment’s duty aright – that being the part in the process allotted to us; and let come – not what will, for there is no such thing – but what the eternal Thought wills for each of us, has intended in each of us from the first. If men would but believe that they are in process of creation, and consent to be made – let the maker handle them as the potter his clay, yielding themselves in respondent motion and submissive hopeful action with the turning of his wheel, they would ere long find themselves able to welcome every pressure of that hand upon them, even when it was felt in pain, and sometimes not only to believe but to recognize the divine end in view, the bringing of a son into glory; whereas, behaving like children who struggle and scream while their mother washes and dresses them, they find they have to be washed and dressed, notwithstanding, and with the more discomfort: they may even have to find themselves set half naked and but half dried in a corner, to come to their right minds, and ask to be finished.”

I think that maturity is stopping fighting against God’s molding work in our lives and asking to be finished. It is the long process of being finished, of surrendering to becoming the person God desires for us to be. And as we do so, as we surrender to be molded and then are molded more and more into ourselves – the true self which God intended for us when he “knit us together in our mother’s womb” – something amazing happens we find that we are truly free.

I think that maturity is a process that takes us to freedom – freedom to be who we are and freedom to live fully and authentically from our true self. I was talking with a few friends the other night and we were talking about the different stages of development that humans go through and about how our spiritual and inner maturity seems to mirror those stages. Maturing means becoming an adult and growing into adulthood means a new sense of freedom. As we mature spiritually we are no longer the 7 year old that begs God for the toys we want and needs to ask His permission for every little decision we make. Instead we learn that there is much more to walking with God then getting what we want and as we walk with Him he gives us much more freedom to make choices then we ever imagined. It reminded me of a C.S. Lewis quote I have always loved from the book Perelandra:

” ‘I have been so young till this moment that all my life now seems to have been a kind of sleep. I have thought that I was being carried, and behold, I was walking… What you have made me see is as plain as the sky, but I never saw it before. Yet it has happened every day. One goes into the forest to pick food and already the thought of one fruit rather than another has grown up in one’s mind. Then, it may be, one finds a different fruit and not the fruit one thought of. One joy was expected and another is given. But this I had never noticed before – that the very moment of the finding there is in the mind a kind of thrusting back, or setting aside. The picture of the fruit you have not found is still, for a moment, before you. And if you wished – if it were possible to wish – you could keep it there. You could send your soul after the good you had expected, instead of turning it to the good you had got. You could refuse the real good; you could make the real fruit insipid by thinking of the other… And this, O Piebald, is the glory and wonder you have made me see; that it is I, I myself, who turn from the good expected to the given good. Out of my own heart I do it… I thought,’ she said, ‘that I was carried in the will of Him I love, but now I see that I walk with it. I thought that the good things He sent drew me into them; but now I see that it is I who plunge into them with my own legs and arms, as when we go swimming… It is a delight with terror in it! One’s own self to be walking from one good to another, walking beside Him as Himself may walk, not even holding hands. How has He made me so separate from Himself? How did it enter His mind to conceive such a thing? The world is so much larger than I thought. I thought we went along paths – but it seems there are no paths. The going itself is the path.'”

I think maturity is growing into our freedom, learning to walk beside God even though He has made us separate enough from Himself that we can walk away. I think maturity is letting go of our own selfish ideas and desires and learning instead to be in truth that which God wants us to be. Maturity isn’t some place you arrive at and it’s not just being “grown up”, maturity is a process of becoming.

And it comes at a cost. As a friend of mine pointed out mature things, like wine and cheese and pearls and even big full grown trees, are expensive. We develop maturity – we gain freedom and learn who we really are – through struggles and the long passing of time. Maturity can’t be rushed, and it doesn’t come easy. We are refined by fire.

Maturity also doesn’t usually happen in a smooth linear line. It’s often two steps forward and one step back. Like a baby learning to walk we step forward and then fall down. Maturity is a slow process and it doesn’t happen in all areas of our life at once. We grow in bursts, sometimes in one area and sometimes in another. Different parts of us mature at different stages and different paces.

So, that’s what I think about maturity. Those are my jumbled and often borrowed thoughts on maturity. Maybe my thoughts will be more orderly for the next synchroblog… we’ll see J

Here’s what other people are saying about maturity:

Lainie Petersen at Headspace with “Watching Daddy Die
Kathy Escobar at The Carnival in My Head with “what’s inside the bunny?”
John Smulo at JohnSmulo.com
Erin Word at Decompressing Faith with “Long-Wearing Nail Polish and Other Stories”
Beth Patterson at The Virtual Teahouse
Bryan Riley at Charis Shalom
Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church with “Maturity and Education
KW Leslie at The Evening of Kent with “Putting Spiritual Infants in Charge”
Adam Gonnerman at Igneous Quill with “Old Enough to Follow Christ?
Joe Miller at More Than Cake with “Intentional Relationships for Maturity”
Jonathan Brink at JonathanBrink.com with “I Won’t Sin
Susan Barnes at A Booklook with “Growing Up”
Tracy Simmons at The Best Parts with “Knowing Him Who is From the Beginning
Joseph Speranzella at A Tic in the Mind’s Eye with “Spiritual Maturity And The Examination of Conscience
Sally Coleman at Eternal Echoes
Liz Dyer at Grace Rules with “What I Wish The Church Knew About Spiritual Maturity
Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations with “post-enlightenment Christians in an unenlightened South Africa
Steve Hayes at Khanya with “Adult Content
Ryan Peter at Ryan Peter Blogs and Stuff with “The Foundation For Ministry and Leading
Kai Schrmal at Kaiblogy with “Mature Virtue”
Lew Ayotte at The Pursuit with “Maturity and Preaching”
Phil Wyman at Square No More with “Is Maturity Really What I Want?”

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

“Naked” Church: Church in a nude art exhibit

Our Church moved to a new location yesterday and I loved the new venue, but it made me laugh a little. You see most Sunday’s our church meets in smaller separate groups either at the Springer’s house (an English speaking gathering) or at the Flek’s house (a Czech speaking gathering), but once a month we all come together in a larger venue to talk and worship together as a community.

So, yesterday we had our common gathering in a new location at this great little café right by Old Town Square. So, what made me laugh about the location? Well, the room we were meeting in was also used to display art and the art it is displaying right now is a nude exhibition. All of the pictures on the wall were black and white pictures of nude women. Some were tasteful and just slightly suggestive and others were full frontal nude shots. What a setting for church, right?

Honestly when I first walked in I didn’t even notice the pictures because I was busy setting up some crosses and candles on the tables. When I finally did notice them I have to admit I felt a little uncomfortable. I live in Europe and I have seen some pretty risqué things since moving here. I try to be open-minded. I love art and have often admired nude sculptures and works of art. But, looking at these women completely exposed in newly taken black and white pictures I saw myself. In a weird way I suddenly felt very exposed as I looked at them and that made me feel very uncomfortable.

Throughout the course of the night something changed, though. By the end of the time I could look at these pictures full on and see not only beauty but freedom. By the end of the evening I didn’t feel uncomfortable looking at the pictures any more, instead I could genuinely admire them.

It got me thinking about nakedness, and vulnerability, and openness, and authentically. It got me thinking about being who you are and allowing others to genuinely see who you are. Honestly, even though I would consider myself fairly cultured those pictures on the wall last night were some of the first truly nude pictures I’d ever seen. And it makes sense that they would make me feel uncomfortable and awkward at first. But, as time went by the shock factor wore off and I was able to really look at them and appreciate them for what they were. I wonder if the same is true with being vulnerable with another person or another person being vulnerable with us – at first it feels really uncomfortable and awkward, we’re not used to it, but then after a while it becomes more natural and we can be more vulnerable and accept another’s vulnerability more fully the next time we are faced with it.

Here are a few other reasons that I like the pictures on the wall and a few other things that it got me thinking about:

  • It reminded me that when we come before God we do so naked. There is nothing we can hide from Him. He created us and He knows us intimately. We are always as exposed before God as the women in the pictures were before us. And yet, God doesn’t look on our nakedness and feel uncomfortable (like I did at first) and he doesn’t look on our nakedness and judge all the little faults and failings and love-handles and wrinkles, instead he looks on our nakedness and calls us His beloved.
  • It also reminded me that I want to live authentically before God and others. I don’t want to try and cover myself up and be something I’m not. I don’t want to try and hid my true self from others and make myself look better than I am, or even just different than I am. I want to be free to fully expose the person God made me to be at my core. I want to allow others to see my true self and live from a place of deep authenticity.

So, overall I liked “naked church”, as my husband nicknamed this week’s gathering, and I’m looking forward to next time.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

Photographs by Beth Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.