I’ve read a few articles lately about how we reach adulthood in our culture, and I started thinking about how well we foster growing up.
When I was a young, like every kid, I thought about running away a few times. Not in a thirteen year old, teenage angst, kind of way. I’m talking about an innocent, seven year old, the bag I packed had at least one stuffed animal kind of way. It’s the adorable, not scary, kind of running way.
The idea of leaving was my default threat for anything I didn’t like.
One time I actually did, and I think I made it to the end of the street next to my street. Running away was really more of a statement against the things I didn’t like — it was my posture towards living in a world that so often didn’t meet my expectations. It was how I thought about escaping the stuff I didn’t like or agree with.
The more I think about growing up, the more I realize our journey to maturity, physical maturity or any other kind, is mostly about how we deal with the world we wanted and the reality in which we find ourselves. It’s how we respond to the stuff we don’t like or agree with — we can run or we can embrace it.
I think less and less growing up is about running away and more and more growing up is about embracing — our fears, the unknown, and even our failures — because when we stop running and start embracing we process what’s happening, pour through our feelings, and hopefully all that hard work ends with more growth. We are forced to deal with the sometimes harsh realities of unmet expectations of a less than ideal world, and we learn how to function inside of that world.
I work in the suburbs, and change is usually forced on families in August when the new school year begins. Kiddos grow up, families have new schools to deal with or new cities to send their money to when college is finally in the picture. We can’t stop change, but I wonder if our journey towards maturity - adulthood - is found in how we deal with the change in our world — especially the change we don’t like. The interesting part of growing up is it never really ends. If growing up happens when we embrace the stuff we don’t like or our unmet expectations instead of running from them, we continue to grow well past the days when the school calendar controls our lives. We grow when we embrace and stop running from the change in our families, our culture, and even our churches. We can’t run anymore.
What if our goal wasn’t to protect, shelter, and run (within reason — let’s use wisdom and recognize innocence is beautiful) but to embrace, guide, and grow. Don’t get me wrong, I think part of our job as parents or leaders it to protect to some degree, but I think we have to ask the question — is our protecting getting in the way of growth? All of us need to keep growing. I think it starts with more embracing and less running.