You have heard commentators, journalists and editorial writers talk about it: We have a youth culture. The entire society of the U.S. seems to revolve around what the 20 and 30 somethings are doing, saying, buying, and thinking. Maturity is not a value, at least in the public sector, and ageism is rampant in every publication and media form that we look at. The mature, the wisdom of our society are simply not there, absent. It’s like old age and/or maturity have been erased from the public consciousness. In our most recently fomented culture there appears to be absolutely no value in having arrived at an older, more advanced age and way of thinking. As we do the daily grind of living the life of a believer we must be careful not to let that value spill over into how we view and practice our spiritual walk.
The truth about maturity is that no one is immune to it! Everyone will come face to face with maturity sooner or later. It’s that moment when you finally realize that the self focused world view that you have had for so long really isn’t working for you. That insight would be the beginning of maturity and your choices about what to do with that new information develops from that point on. Some people are a quick study and others not so much. It is clear that somewhere in their journey with the Savior while he was here on earth the Disciples experienced a life altering brush with maturity. Scripture clearly lays that out in the information it gives about how the Disciples exercised their ministry. You might recall that Jesus spent a lot of time with his followers before he ever asked them to take up the ministry themselves. When He was ready to actually put them “in the field” he gave them a set of directions and then sent them out to preach and heal. Before this he had done much teaching and allowed them to experience fantastic things like Peter walking on the water and the Transfiguration. He knew that these experiences would be fixed in their memory and be a source of encouragement when he was gone.
One of their first assignments as “novices” was to pray for a dumb (speechless), boy who had been throwing himself into fires since he was a baby. They are quickly embarrassed when they are unable to heal the boy and his father complains publically to Jesus. An aggravated Jesus even yells at them for their lack of focus; “You faithless generation…how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you?” (Mk 9:19) Jesus then commands them to bring him the boy and, of course, for the Master healing him is no problem. The whiney (personal opinion) disciples then ask Jesus in private, “Why were we unable to cast it out?” Jesus’ reply contains one more zinger as he tells them: “This is the kind…that can only be driven out by prayer.” (Mk 9:29) Yikes! What were they thinking? What did they think they were doing? Hadn’t they seen Jesus pray a million times by now? Hadn’t they prayed with Him numerous times? His reply clearly indicates that whatever they were doing it wasn’t prayer! Maybe they were show boating? Maybe they were so full of themselves that they were only thinking about how they could impress the crowd? Maybe they were preoccupied with how good they would look to family and friends after they showed that they could do what Jesus did? Whatever it was, their spiritual immaturity is clearly evident as they are almost shocked that their powers didn’t work. One of the first rules of growing in the Spirit is the ability to “know thy self” and where you’re at.
In all situations, though, change is possible. In a later incident close to the end of His ministry we see that a Samaritan village rejects Jesus as He makes his way back to Jerusalem and his final days (Lk 9: 51-56). The now annoyed Disciples quickly ask Him: “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” This time Jesus rebukes them for wanting to “nuke” the village. There seems to be no question that immolation would have been entirely possible and the Disciples would have had no problem accomplishing the task. I don’t know about you, but I have been working on my spirituality for around fifty years and I still don’t have the “calling down fire from heaven” thing perfected! At the least, this is a more than awesome spiritual power that could only come from someone who was very, very tuned in with the will of God. From one extreme to the other the Disciples clearly moved from not having the ability to do a “simple” healing to having the ability to tap into the destructive forces granted only by God himself. Now that’s truly a journey in spiritual maturity and a transformation of the highest order.
As people of the word who are carrying Jesus work forward we need to be acutely aware of all the opportunities we are given which will allow us to mature in the spiritual life. Sometimes they could be occasions of embarrassment or failure. Despite Jesus’ frustration with the nascent Disciples they still managed to grow to a place where they were an amazing force. These guys who couldn’t figure out “prayer” in the beginning wound up establishing the Church for the world and for the ages. As their maturity grew, their ability to spread the Gospel grew right along with it. We do well to welcome spiritual maturity and do everything we can to co-operate with the process. “The future will be what we make it; let us reflect on this thought so that it may motivate us to act. Especially, let us realize that all collective reform must first be individual reform. Let us work at transforming ourselves and our lives. Let us influence those around us not by useless preaching, but by the irresistible power of our spirituality and the example of our lives.” (Elisabeth Leseur †1914 a French married laywoman whose cause for canonization is underway) “And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” (Lk 5:39)
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Check out more about spiritual maturity at: www.atravelersview.org
Copyright©2010, Kathryn M. Cunningham, All Rights Reserved.
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