It is a bit cheap to use your children’s everyday life as parables and analogies. However(!), who you spend your time with has an influence on how you see the world so, put 10p in the meter and hope for something a bit classier next week!
One of my beautiful and brilliant children is working out some of their emotions and what the impact of how they feel has on their decisions and path through life. They are exploring elements of their personality, learning how they interact with the world, and which behaviours produce desired, or undesired, action from others. What used to be cute is no longer funny, favourite toys have been cast aside to let in light and help new interests grow, tastes are changing, ideas are developing, and spaces that have been cheerfully shared are now becoming painfully squeezed at times.
Some days they can process all of the information and make competent, independent, and incredible decisions, other days and times they cannot, and help is required to manage emotions and discuss choices.
What is happening, what is going on inside of the most precious and important people in my life? They are growing up.
Growing older is (hopefully) inevitable but growing up is a choice.
Having fun and enjoying things is essential throughout all of life, maturity is not synonymous with misery and growing up is a process for any age and stage of life. Avoiding good decision-making and proactively choosing not to move towards health isn’t punk, voluntarist, alternative, or fun for anyone though. Dodging growing up can create a distorted dynamic in our emotions. An atmosphere of suspended reality and false security hangs around our infantile lifestyle and, to others, we can become like the overcast greyness of the middle of January, not anyone’s first choice of environment. What ‘was’ or ‘used to be’ can give off a powerful false scent of safety where, in truth, what we really perceive is the pungent aroma and heady influence of something long dead but unburied. A version of us and pieces of others being dragged around and ultimately getting in the way of who we are to really become. There are choices to be made in growing up. Decisions leading us to leave some of our old ways alone and appreciate the value, protection, and health maturity brings.
I’ve shared often about childhood pangs of disappointment when I accepted being a professional footballer wasn’t to be my lot in life. At an age and time when all I could ever imagine was a future with football in it, the truth was (is) I’m just not as good as I’d like or need to be at the thing I love to achieve the goal.
In processing information I have choices to make. The anger present in disappointment can morph into entitlement and lashing out. ‘Who’s fault is it, who is to blame? Was I coached properly, did I have the right equipment, was my time managed appropriately, did I practice enough?’ The emotional postmortem is extensive. What I think I actually have to process though is my relationship with disappointment. I have to learn to find what is of value and how to make better decisions informed by those values, this precious and essential skill is the reward of growing up. Staying small is the shortsightedness and petulance my feelings call for, I mustn’t let that determine what is treasure. There’s a skill disparity that is part of life; some are given five, others two and others one. In footballing terms, I just didn’t receive the higher tariff but for all things, I did receive new life and the choice to honour what holds eternal value even when my feelings failed.
When the feelings fail, where are the things of high value in my life?
The place of honour and value can be nuanced and complicated. Life happens fast. Lazy days dreaming of football forever quickly become the responsibilities of utility bills and remembering bin day!
The person, place or thing that demands and shapes my attention, holds my gaze, occupies thoughts and steers actions must be Jesus. In navigating my existence I must not be held hostage by a value system built on feelings. The most honest internal emotions are temperamental and as subject to truth manipulation as the easier to find and fix surface-level ridiculous and brilliant ones. My highest value develops a system within my being, my OS, the programming that computes my responses to others and their demands for time and space. Over time my conscious-relationship-decisions with my highest value become sub and then un-conscious practice. Bended knee behaviour to the somebody, the space, or the something I have placed above all others.
The corruption and disfunction of my internal spiritual technology, the bugs calling me to childishness instead of childlikeness, my refusal to grow up and ultimately deciding to crash my system, happens when my highest value is no longer Jesus.
A value system informing a way of living, honouring God and placing Jesus high above what we previously held as valuable is ours to take ownership and responsibility of. The Holy Spirit maintains and updates within us a program built to love God and others but which system gets installed with life-shaping permanence is our decision to make.
Sometimes the way I feel isn’t feeling the way of Jesus.
When my feelings fail I have to know what is of value. What will guide me to life and not death? Which system leads me to serve instead of take? What loves and includes and gives away instead of taking, killing, and breaking? To action truth is a choice I make and sometimes that choice is counter to what I feel. “Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?” Children learning to make a way through life have choices to make based on a value system they are installing. Being cruel might get me what I want now but it leaves me lonely later. Generosity sees less now but much more later. As children are learning to grow up by letting values shape and guide them, similarly how do we confront what we hold as valuable and understand how it is shaping our responses to Jesus?
If what we perceive of value and honour is not pointing us to Jesus then we have to let it go.
The starkness of Jesus’ figure of speech, in Matthew 5, to chop off limbs that cause you to sin is an internal value system statement, it is the call for spiritual maturity, it’s the Father asking His children to grow up.
Examine disappointment, prod frustration, take apathy apart and investigate how your feelings are shaping your values, learn how your values are informing your decisions.
What does Jesus say about how you are feeling? You are not to suffer in silence or alone, equally where are childish values robbing you of the skills and tools maturity will bring?
If what we perceive of as the highest value is not pointing us to Jesus, we have to let it go.
A way of life that transforms how I see and respond to others is available in Jesus.
When do you need help with how you feel?
What do you hold of value and is it pointing you to Jesus?