I didn’t write a blog post last week, because last Saturday included two great things. Taking care of my sister’s kids filled up the morning and the afternoon/evening was spent at my friends’ wedding. A late-summer golden Saturday.
Keeping kids alive and fed and happy is a fun, busy, and challenging occupation. All you moms of small children – I salute you. When I have my own kids someday, I’m coming to you for advice.
Being a single woman, I sometimes struggle with feeling like a “grown up”, even though I am 31. If I’m not an adult by this point, when will I ever be? I think it is especially easy for single people to feel unready for serious responsibilities or adulthood, because the idea of “adulthood” can become a badge of honor that is somehow achieved or earned. But that is a distorted view and can quickly become an idol. Adulthood does not begin when you buy a house or start a serious career or when you get your stuff organized or when you learn how to budget or when you finally get the hang of meal planning. When you turned 18, you legally became an adult, so chances are good that you already an adult. The questions is what are you doing with your grown up life. Are you acting like a grown up or not? Discipline is necessary for life. It’s either going to be self-enforced or enforced by somebody else. Aim for self-discipline. Your mom and dad should not need to give you orders at this point, they should be giving you advice. Your drive should be coming from you, not your boss or your family or your teachers (if you are still in school).
Another struggle for single people is that we don’t have as many traditional milestones to mark time against. People tend to gauge each other by milestones and stage of life, so my sisters and I will get different sets of questions from people who are trying to get to know us. For my sisters, the standard questions will be how long they’ve been married, how many kids they have, and how old their kids are. I get asked when I graduated from college and/or how long I’ve worked in my current job. (And once people hear when I graduated from college, their eyebrows go up and their next question is how old I am. And whether I’m dating anybody. That’s just par for the course.)
I haven’t been sitting around waiting for more milestones to happen before my life officially begins. That would be sad. It’s such a trap to think that life will start once you leave your parents’ house/start a relationship/graduate from college/get married/have a baby. Time marches on and I use up a day’s worth of time every day, so I need to use it up as wisely and joyfully as I can! I’ve grown up a whole lot since college, working a challenging job and running my own little household. It has been grand. I’m not looking back longingly at childhood or high school or college. When I was little, being Peter Pan sounded pretty great – running around, having adventures, never growing up. But even when I was little, I knew that Wendy made the right choice by going back home and deciding to grow up. The only way Peter Pan could stay a boy forever was by forgetting everything, even his friends, so he gave up his memories and friends in exchange for immortality. Trying to put off growing up is an attempt to avoid pain and self-sacrifice. But it isn’t a very well thought out attempt, because self-sacrifice brings joy with it and discipline helps us handle pain and hard times when they come.
Here are few of the best things about growing up.
The first (and by far the most important) is growing in the love and knowledge of God. The older I get, the more I realize how dependent I am on God for absolutely everything. In John 15, Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine and you are the branches, He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1-5) Amen to that. In Christ, I live. The more I become aware of my own sin and shortcomings, the more I appreciate His love and sacrifice. Part of growing up is recognizing pruning for what it is. When difficult things happen, when pain comes, when hope deferred makes the heart sick, it is easy to think that God doesn’t love us. It’s the opposite. When we are in Christ, the Master Vinedresser uses trials to prune us. God loves me too much to let me stay as I am, so He prunes me so I can grow, produce more fruit, and be a greater blessing. Growing in Christ, rejoicing in reading His word, following His commandments – these are all gifts.
That is the basis of all the joys of growing up. Here are a few secondary reasons why growing up is great:
I have more perspective, especially where my own feelings are concerned. At this point, what I know can out-vote how I feel. It still isn’t easy, but I’ve had far more practice shelving unruly emotions than when I was 17. When I was younger, my emotions ate me up and spit me out. (That’s high school in a nutshell.)
I’m more confident now than I was ten years ago. I’m not sure I initiated a single conversation during my freshman year of college, because I was afraid of people. Starting conversations still intimidates me down to my bones, but I have more practice stepping outside my comfort zone and chatting with strangers now. Going back to the first reason, it is easier to be confident, when your confidence is in the right place. My trust is rooted in Christ, not in my own abilities to talk (that’s still very dicey) or my appearance (objectively, I was cuter and thinner at 20). My confidence grows stronger when I think about myself less and my Savior more.
Good friendships age like fine wine. If you have a good friend, keep them. Invest in friendships and don’t let them slide away. If your friend is at a different stage of life, figure out the best way to stay in touch. I have friendships that are maintained almost exclusively via Facebook messages, because time zone differences are tough.
I’ve reached the point where I would rather be respected by people who know me than be admired by strangers. That Cinderella-descending-the-staircase-in-a-beautiful-ballgown moment is a very very attractive moment, but Cinderella’s faithful service for her evil stepmother and stepsisters is what will make her into a good and gracious queen. In the book of Ruth, Ruth makes a beautiful declaration to her mother-in-law:
“Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will you be buried, the Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.” (Ruth 1: 16-17)
She voluntarily left her family, her culture, and her chance of getting remarried, in order to honor and help her mother-in-law Naomi. She was signing up for a life of hard labor as an outcast and a perpetual stranger and she thought it well worthwhile. Better to be a stranger and an outcast with God on your side, than at home and comfortable and empty.
I no longer worry about whether or not my life will be significant. This is a big one. I used to conflate significant with famous or influential, as if my significance was based on what I could do or what I could make. As if a quiet, obedient life wasn’t important. Now, I may still be called to something that the outside world would call Important. Maybe I’ll become an influential fashion designer at 50, like Julia Child. But even if I don’t make a big splash and I don’t live a loud life, the life I have is significant. God gave it to me and He knows exactly what He is doing.
Trust and Obey never becomes easy, but I think time makes it clearer. And that’s why growing up is great.