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Becoming Mature: More Than Adulting

11 He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. 12 His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ 13 until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ. 

14 As a result, we aren’t supposed to be infants any longer who can be tossed and blown around by every wind that comes from teaching with deceitful scheming and the tricks people play to deliberately mislead others. 15 Instead, by speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ, 16 who is the head. The whole body grows from him, as it is joined and held together by all the supporting ligaments. The body makes itself grow in that it builds itself up with love as each one does its part.

We are beginning a new series entitled relationship reboot.  This series is for anyone who needs to revitalize or reboot their relationships.  It is for couples but it is also for anyone who has relationships as much that we are discussing can be applied to a wide variety of relationships.  

Today our topic is Becoming Mature.

Becoming mature seems like a funny place to begin but it is the most important place to begin.  Why?  Most relationships are deeply affected by our spiritual and emotional maturity.  We all have struggles and we are all going to have struggles especially in our lives and relationships.  As people we are not fully formed.  Even if we are mature in years we can be emotionally immature in our relationships.  We can also know lots of stuff—lots of information about the Bible or about a wide variety of subjects but still be emotionally immature. 

For many years the church focused on knowing the Bible and obeying the Bible as what spiritual and emotionally maturity looked like however, just knowing the Bible and obeying the Bible did not produce a spiritually and emotionally mature person.  We have noticed this and many authors and speakers are beginning to address this concern. 

When you think of maturity, what do you think about?  When I was growing up, I thought of maturity as merely adulting… being responsible to show up at work or school on time, do my homework and be responsible with my finances.  When I had children, it was often about taking care of them and their needs, getting meals on time and grocery shopping done at the same time as being responsible for my job or volunteer responsibilities.  It involved being tidy and getting everything done.  That’s adulting.  But while it includes aspects of maturity, it is not the full definition of what it means to become a mature person.

So, this morning we are going to investigate what becoming mature looks like. 

Before I begin, I need you to know that whatever age you are chronologically, there is still a need for us to grow emotionally and Spiritually.  This is an adventure in life that does not end.  And we all grow differently… we are affected by our own pace of growth and by a wide variety of life experiences that help us grow.  Even couples don’t necessarily grow at the same pace nor in the same way.  I used to think that my spouse should have the same growth experiences that I have had but alas, my spouse had and has his own path. 

I also need you to know that growing emotionally and spiritually is not an exact science.  It looks different for different people.  I might be strong in one growth area but growing in another. Having said all of that, I would like to begin with a spiritual foundation by pulling a few key words from our passage today. 

The first word in our passage is Equip.  What does it mean to be equipped as a Christian or a person for that matter?  Our text today says that God gave us people within the church who would equip us so that we might become mature growing into the image of Christ. 

Apostles provide good leadership so the body of Christ might be healthy and see the big picture, Evangelists help us make vital and life giving connections with God and tell the good news of a new way of being.  Prophets are often the ones who tell us the truth and pastors and teachers are the ones who care for us and teach us in the way of Jesus. 

We know also that Jesus is the picture of what it means to be fully human or fully mature.  He told his disciples to be perfect even as he is perfect.  Being perfect in the Greek has to do with becoming mature.  Each of us is invited to a journey within which we become more like Christ.  More fully human, more mature, more loving, more just.  And God gave people who would help us become more mature, more Christ like. 

The Apostle Paul calls this being equipped.  What does it mean to be equipped.

Again, in the past, the church often thought of being equipped as sort of like adulting… being responsible, knowing the Bible, having skills etc.  But that is only a part of what being equipped really means.  Greg Ogdin in his book Unfinished Business speaks of being equipped as becoming whole.

Those who are fully equipped have experienced mending… having had their lives mended and healed.  It also involves discipleship and learning in which God’s people learn to love one another and live out the way of Jesus.  So equipped has many nuances that involve becoming whole, or mature as human beings. 

Our passage also tells us this: God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ. 

That’s pretty rigorous isn’t it.  The goal for humanity is to become mature adults who are like Jesus.  Paul has a short description of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 13.  We call it the love chapter.

 Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
Wow… that’s a rigorous standard… to love like Jesus loves.  My guess is that it will take a life time for us to continue in such growth and maturity. 

We are not alone in the growth process.  Scripture reminds us that God is with us and the Holy Spirit will help us mend and heal and grow. 

When my spouse and I were in an enormous growth curve in our lives we were seeing a therapist and working on significant issues in our marriage it seems that whenever we had an appointment on the calendar, the night before, we would have an issue come up in our relationship.  Seriously, we would go into our appointment with real things to work on.  While we could see the Holy Spirit at work, our therapist coached us in dealing with our issues and taught us new skills to manage our differences and conflicts.  God worked by the Holy Spirit as much as we and our therapist worked. 

We had areas in our lives that needed mending and healing.  We had places where we had to learn humility.  We had to learn to speak our own truth, to say what we needed and listen well to one another.  This was a time of huge growth for us.  It was also a time when the Holy Spirit was guiding us into a more mature place as people.  We were being equipped. 

So having laid the Spiritual foundation, lets look at what is looks like for people to be growing into spiritual and emotional maturity.

Ill be using a lot of insights from the book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete Scazzero if you are interested in his book.

Becoming emotionally mature has to do with first of all anchoring your life in the love of Jesus. 

This involves communing with God, practicing spiritual disciplines—meditation on scripture or a devotional, silence, solitude, community, confession and worship.  This helps us remain connected to God and experience the guidance of the Spirit in our lives. 

In my own personal spiritual journey, I had a hard time believing that God loved me personally.  I knew in my head that God loved everyone, me included but I had a hard time grasping that God really loved me… just as I am.  I had some unholy images of God as an angry judge and harsh disciplinarian and the whole idea of sin was a terrifying word to me.  I was afraid of God more than being in a loving relationship with God. 

I found myself deconstructing unhealthy ideas of God and discovering more of God’s deep love for me.  It took time, study, prayer, reflection and a lot of time alone for me to tune in.  I was at at time in my life when this could happen.  God did a lot of healing of my heart spiritually.

Anchoring our lives in the love of Jesus.  How are you anchoring your lives in the love of Jesus.  Even if you are busy, I’d encourage you to choose one spiritual disciple to practice daily.  It could be five minutes of prayer and five minutes of silence. (which can seem like a long time).

Second, becoming mature involves breaking the power of the past.

Often our present relationship struggles have more to do with our past than what’s happening in the present.  As human beings we grow up in families that have various patterns of relating.  We laugh and say often that we are all dysfunctional and that we put the fun in dysfunction, it’s just a matter of degree.  As human beings we develop patterns of relating that can harm our current relationships. 

Some families struggle with addictions and others in the family develop patterns of relating around that addiction.  We might become conflict avoiders because bringing up an issue in the family could be dangerous or create havoc and one of our parents or both might get drunk and angry.  So we keep silent and try to be good so that we can cope with our particular family dysfunction. 

Some of us become rescuers who try to fix others or rescue them from their mistakes.  Some of us become over-responsible doing more for another person than we should.  Others of us become under-responsible and do not do the things that we can do. 

We often struggle with self-esteem issues and don’t value ourselves as much as we value others.  This can lead to over-caring for others and under-caring for ourselves.  And we get out of balance.  Some families are rigid and others are overly flexible and either extreme can be unhealthy for several reasons. 

Many of our families have experienced abuse—emotional, sexual, physical, financial etc.  And each of these life challenges or patterns if not addressed, mended or healed are issues that we bring into our current relationships. 

Third, Becoming mature involves learning to listen to our feelings.

Our feelings tell us things that are vital to our own well being.  We often do not listen to our sadness, our fear, our angers etc.  We usually like the happy feelings or the loving feelings but would rather bury the difficult feelings.  And when we just push them down, we push them into a bucket that when tapped spill out all over the place.  Or we push them down and they come out other ways.

I did that regularly and when my bucket got tapped, this enormous flood of emotions would come tumbling out.  For me it was sadness and tears that was my expression.  For others the emotion that comes tumbling out is anger.  Anger can be fueled by fear or grief, or loss or a host of other emotions such as resentment or even depression which is anger turned toward ourselves.  Some of us have feelings of powerlessness or disempowerment. 

Feelings tell us things.  They give us information.  And learning to listen to what our feelings are telling us is a valuable tool to help us grow. 

One thing I struggled with was that I had a hard time determining if I was having a feeling or it was my attitude.  I had to learn to tell the difference and take the appropriate actions.

Fourth, Becoming Mature involves taking times to rest.

The Bible calls this sabbaths.  I won't take a lot of time on this but I’ve noticed that I tend to react more in unhealthy ways when I am tired or spent emotionally.  What I need is to take some time to rest and recoup.  That’s why self-care is so important in relationships.  This is linked to noticing our emotions also.  If resentment rises up, instead of pushing it down, I might ask myself, "what is this about?"  I have perhaps done to much caring for others and not enough for myself.  The feeling is giving me information about what I need.  Rest.  Rest can be sleeping, doing something you enjoy, being with people that give you life or spending a quiet day by yourself.  

Notice resting as a big theme in the Bible.  God rested and instituted a day of rest because we are not slaves—we are human beings who become more whole when we are rested. Our world is pretty frenetic and at times we need to put into place some boundaries so that we are able to rest and recover and heal and mend.

Fifth, Becoming mature involves recognizing our brokenness and vulnerability. 

Often when I work with couples I will notice one person or the other say, there’s nothing wrong with me—it’s her or him who needs counseling.  It’s important to recognize that each is contributing to the relational dysfunction in one way or another.  Sometimes the one who looks like nothing is wrong is still contributing dysfunctions in the relationship but they look in control emotionally.  It’s easy to blame the other person for the relationship challenges when most often it’s how the couple are relating and what each are bringing to the table that creates the dysfunction.  That’s why it is important to be humble about our own brokenness and vulnerabilities.  And we spot them when we become triggered or some emotion pops up or when we notice a particular pattern.  If we don’t recognize that we are frail human beings with particular vulnerabilities and places of brokenness we can get kind of prideful believing that what’s wrong is the other person. 

When I hear a lot of blaming of the other, I notice that there are a lot of maturity issues for the one who cannot own his or her part in the struggle.  Blaming… when you notice that you are blaming others a lot, it might be wise to wonder about that.

Sixth, Becoming emotionally mature involves receiving limits as a gift. 

Yeah.. we are not all things to all people nor can we do everything that we or others want us to do or be.  We have limits.  We have physical limits, we have emotional limits, we are gifted in some areas and not others.  We can risk over-extending ourselves until we are exhausted emotionally and physically.  It’s important to learn to say no at times.  We also have a God-given destiny and when we are over-extending or trying to do too much, we don’t have the energy to do what we are really called to do.  So limits matter for people who are becoming mature. 

This is closely related to boundaries.  At times we have to set boundaries which keep us healthy or safe or focused on what really matters.  And this is often not easy.  Sometimes when we set a boundary, others are troubled because they can no longer take advantage of us.  We’ll talk more about boundaries in another week.

Seventh, Becoming mature means we will engage in conflict maturely.

Yeah.. notice I did not say that being mature means we will have no conflict.  That’s what I used to think.  Now I see that conflict is a normal part of life and it pops up due to differences and values, and boundary violations etc.  We will have conflict.  Mature people do not avoid difficult conversations and they learn to repair relationships when they are broken as much as possible.  Scripture tells us “as far as it depends on you.” Which is a valuable insight.  We can do our part in relationship repair… we can’t fix other people.  We will also discuss this a great deal more in the coming weeks.

Eighth, Becoming mature means that we are learning to love well.

Scripture tells us that as we grow in our relationship with God, we begin to learn to love others better.  Learning to love well is directly related to growing emotionally as well.  The more emotionally mature we become, the better we will love others.  In our culture, love is presented often as a feeling…sometimes intense feelings.  We have romantic love and love for children and love for a friend.  Loving well involves feelings, don’t get me wrong.  But loving well is more than having feelings for someone.  We can have a lot of feelings for someone and not love them well because we don’t know how or we are unhealed ourselves.  

We also often don’t have a good picture of what love really is and what it means to love.  Hollywood focuses on the feeling parts and the sexual parts and maybe sometimes on the friendship part.  But loving well can mean telling someone the truth about how their behavior affects the relationship.  Love can be an action or activity.  Love can be so many things and the more whole one is personally, the better one will love another person. 

This is why some fall in love with people who are not good for them.  They have not yet become whole themselves and mistake romantic feelings for genuine love.  I’m gonna tell you the truth.  Romantic feelings come and go in healthy relationships but solid healthy love is filled with health and friendship and dealing well with conflict and loving oneself and becoming more whole.  Loves desires the well being of another person.  In couple relationships however for it work, it is important for both people to be desiring the well-being of the other.  

And the more whole a person becomes the healthier one’s relationships are.  And the more whole one becomes, the better relationship choices one makes. 

I always encourage a person who has come out of a broken relationship or divorce to get healthy themselves—to heal or grieve first, and then consider new relationships. 

Finally, Becoming mature means we will embrace losses and endings growing through them.

I used to think that a loss or failure was simply my own fault.  I assigned too much blame to myself without realizing that there were so many other factors that were at play.  I am not that powerful that something might be all my fault.  I could not embrace failure as an experience that would help me grow.  I thought that mature people were perfect, did everything perfect and never had failures or losses.  I thought that if I failed, I would never get another chance.  Such life experiences are common and we learn valuable lessons in failure.  Losses too are difficult and challenging and don’t get me wrong losses are experiences that we often need to grieve or heal from. 

I could be mad at the world or mad at God because of the losses or failures… or I could move through them, heal, grieve, grow.  None of this is easy. 

I have found that I need some of those helpers—people that God gave the church.  We have therapists and teachers and others who can help us heal and grow.  Never think therapy is for bad or weak people who just can’t do it on their own… therapy is like having a coach who can help us see and respond to a variety of life’s challenges.  So too are small groups or other helping groups.  Dan is a part of a recovery group, others are a part of grief groups.  There are places and people that can help us grow. 

I want to leave you this morning with a link to an emotionally healthy spirituality test that you can take online.  It’s just a quiz that is immediately scored.  After it is scored, it will provide a short description of some growth areas.  Just for fun, I answered it… that I was perfect on all of the questions, and it still left me with a description of where I needed to grow.  It’s just a fun tool to help discern.  If you don’t do Internet, there are a few hard copies on the welcome table in the foyer. 

We’ve discussed a lot about what it looks like to be emotionally and spiritual mature and how becoming whole affects our relationships.  Healthy relationships begin with people who are becoming emotionally and spiritually mature.  If you wish to talk more about this, please feel free to visit me.  I can also recommend some resources, groups or helpers who can help you grow.


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