As a father of seven, I had children in my home for over 30 years. Each of my children was so different from the others in temperament, gifting and talents. This made a “one-size-fits-all” approach to parenting impossible. But what was even more challenging was that each child was at a different point of maturity at any given time. This diversity made it difficult to navigate the positive aspects of parenting but it also made it hard to bring discipline and correction. So we had to establish a simple ground rule: Immaturity is not a sin. We do not correct for immaturity but only for defiance. Yet, as a child grows up, he or she is expected to display increasing maturity. Although physical maturity is inevitable, emotional maturity must be intentionally developed. This is also true in the Kingdom of God. Spiritual maturity is a combination of our ability to consider others above ourselves; to process disappointment and pain without blame; and to live in a proactive, not reactive, manner. Spiritual parents need to tune in to the maturity level of their sons and daughters to help foster growth as time passes. Let’s take a look at a few ways we can help facilitate growth in our kids.
In the past theologians and scientists thought the earth was the center of the universe, but a renewed perspective revealed we are just one of many planets rotating around our sun. That is maturity. It is objectivity. By nature, every person is self-centered and perceives the world through a limited lens. In order for a person to mature, they need to begin to see the world through a larger lens, which is the movement from subjectivity to objectivity. When we come to Christ, we have to learn we are no longer the center of the universe -— Jesus has assumed that role. The foundation of maturity is the ability to look upon the needs and perspectives of others and see the world through their eyes, so we can love them in truth. That is the essence of the golden rule.
A mark of immaturity is a demanding spirit that expects everything to come to us the moment it is desired. This “spirit of entitlement” is the root of much pain in the world. So many people in our society have become borrowers who end up slaves to the lender. We need to understand that sometimes our needs and wants are not the priority of the moment. It is possible to train our sons and daughters how to postpone present pleasure for long-term gain.
A mark of maturity is the ability to perceive difficulty and pain through the eyes of Christ. An excellent biblical example of this is Joseph when he finally met with his brothers after they sold him into slavery. He said, “You meant it for evil but God meant it for good.” Immature people maintain a victim mentality. Three are times when victimization is real and it can cause deep damage to the heart, mind, and body. Unfortunately, it can also produce a mindset that limits us from becoming all God called us to be. The healing process requires maturity and a victorious mindset that forgives our abusers and embraces God’s perspective on our pain.The Gift of Maturity is difficult to impart to our spiritual children. One reason for this is that most of us are still growing into our full maturity in Christ. Yet, if we maintain a clear vision for a family of believers in which everyone is willing to be “speaking the truth in love, we grow up into Him in all things,” we can bestow the blessings of maturity without becoming controlling or punitive. Rather, through careful instruction and modeling, we can demonstrate and celebrate maturity in such a way that every member moves into spiritual adulthood in God’s family.