In the summer, I enjoy getting on my bike and riding away. Just to continue and peddle, away from the city, to paths less traversed. I go for miles, till the path turns to gravel, then the gravel turns to dirt. I continue to ride with the wind rushing past me, pushing my strength to carry me uphill, then gliding down drawn by gravity. It is refreshing to breathe the crisp country air, and even if I have gone this way a hundred times, the path shall never bore me. My thoughts now stray to the past, to the first time I had got to ride all the way to the where it turned to gravel; I had to go with my older brother, Ezra, and because my younger brother came along, I didn’t get to go any farther. And then, of course, when I didn’t have a brother to take me on the trail, the limit was down to the end of the street, four houses down. Now I can’t even imagine jumping on my bike and going that far, just to turn around and head back; maybe I’d do that several times, but still, it would seem so pointless. I wouldn’t really ever go biking now if that was my limit. But it isn’t. As long as I let my parents know where I’m going, I can jump on my bike and ride miles into the country, into the woods where I’m usually the only one there. Isn’t growing up so wonderful, with all of its freedoms?
We often see growing up as just the gaining of privileges and liberties. We hang out with our friends, and have more fun than we’ve every enjoyed before. This isn’t growing up. Yes, growing in age, but not growing up. Growing up entails far more than just freedom and fun.
But what exactly it entail? I have taken this question more seriously now that I’m a junior in highschool and the “big question” is looming closer and closer: “What are you going to do after you graduate?” I now must ask myself, am I ready to graduate? Am I ready to become an adult, take on more responsibilities, become independent? Am I ready to become the spiritual leader of my life? I have to admit that I don’t believe I’m ready. So what qualities does a guy need to have to grow up into a Godly young man?
There are a couple of things that I want to mention. First, responsibility. When we are older, we should be more responsible. Take responsibility for your actions. No longer do we blame the broken lamp on our brother. Yes, I’m sure that you’re all at that point by now, but it’s not just that; taking responsibility for your actions is far more than that. It’s apologizing to a person when you have done them wrong. If you say something, and then realize that it could possibly have been unedifying in any way, apologize. Take responsibility for what you say. I know that this is a very difficult thing to do many times. I have trouble with this myself. But growing up entails maturity, and responsibility is a big part of that.
Lately I’ve been realizing that if I would take responsibility for all the wrong that I do, well, I probably couldn’t live with myself. It’s made me realize how much of a sinner I truly am, and how much more I need Christ’s salvation, how much I need his purifying blood. And if it weren’t for the work that Jesus has already done in me, I would be a far bigger sinner.
A huge issue that I know we all need to work on is selflessness. This virtue is often described as humility. When looking at the world around us, though, we see this is lacking to a very large degree. Selflessness comes in very small steps, as well as large ones. Who gets the last cookie? Let your sister have it. You’re tired after a late night, and early church. You just want to go home and relax. But someone asks you if you can help them clean up. I try to always help serve in any way that people need, which often includes staying later and helping clean up a mess.
Maybe, your mother has had a hard week, and is very worn out. You’re at some event, but your mother says it’s time to go. You want to stay a little longer to socialize with your friends. You could easily convince your mother to allow you to stay a “few” more minutes. But instead you consent to her will.
Better yet, why don’t you go vacuum the living room, or sweep the dining room. “But no one asked me!” So? Do it anyways. Make your mother’s day. In fact, while you’re at it, why don’t you wash the dishes as well. I challenge you to set aside one day out of your busy schedule and serve your parents. Do all the chores they usually do. Do more. Set aside what you want to do, and minister to others.
Several Monday nights ago, the usual time my debate club meets, I forwent going. This of all nights was one that I did not want to miss, as it was going to be the “de-brief” on the tournament that had just finished. I hadn’t gone, but it was the first tournament of the season, and I really wanted to hear all about it, find out how all my friends had done, and learn about some of the cases that other teams outside our club were using. The problem was that we had Ezra’s friend staying at our house, who had come back to our house after the wedding to wait for his ship to come into port. No one else was able to take me but my mother, but she didn’t really want to take me because she was waking up Tuesday morning around three o’clock to take our guest to the airport to fly to Mississippi (?) where his ship was waiting for him. Club usually lasts until ten at least, and so we’re not home until eleven. I really desperately wanted to go, but I understood that wouldn’t be good for my mother, and would probably stress her out, so I told her that she didn’t need to take me.
That’s what selflessness looks like. Forget about what you want, what you are planning to do for yourself. Rather, view the world as one who is ready to serve, wanting to serve. Stop merely considering what is beneficial to you, but what might help others around you. This can sometimes take us out of our comfort. You know that one person that you know that sort of just doesn’t fit in? You know, the one who always sits by himself and doesn’t really talk to other people. Greet him the next time you see him. Talk to him; try to have a good-lengthed conversation. Include him into your circle of friends. Yes, it isn’t easy; trust me, I’ve tried. But remember, life isn’t about you; it’s about our Savior Jesus Christ.
"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” ~ Philippians 2:3-4
Many of us dream of things that we shall do or places we shall visit when we are older. Often times, these are wonderful dreams, but we must ask ourselves, would this glorify God? We ought not to waste our lives on trying to entertain ourselves. This is possibly dangerous water to tread in, but I ask the question again, do we have dreams that are completely for ourselves, and in no way glorifying our Savior? This is the hardest thing to do—to let go of a dream that you so badly want. I can only give you this one piece of advice: ask God to direct your desires to parallel His. Trust me, that will help you in so many areas of your life.
The last thing I want to mention here is that of spiritual maturity and discernment. I find so many Christians lack spiritual maturity. They still are feeding on milk. But should we really be this way? If our goal is to glorify our Savior, we ought to study His word that we may know Him and how to glorify Him better. If we’re to grow up, we ought not to continue to feed on milk, but eat solid food—study in depth the wonders of God’s word. As Hebrews 5:14 says, “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” And I am sure that many of us will end up getting married some day. Are you ready then to lead a family? We ought to study the Scriptures that we may know them well, and are able to discern what is true—always “ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear”. ~ 1 Peter 3:15. We should be able to stand on our own and lead ourselves and others in following the Bible.
To sum it up, “growing up” ought to entail responsibility for your actions, a humble spirit which guides our actions, a lovingness that blesses others, and spiritual maturity that can discern the path of righteousness.
Let us pray that the Lord will work through us, that we might better glorify him.