Maturity involves a developed sense of thought, discernment, and the capacity for appropriate response in various situations. I suppose, then, that immaturity would involve a lack of discernment. An immature person would be prone to respond inappropriately, without a developed sense of what is acceptable.
A business might reach a mature stage.
A person might mature in his/her ability to communicate or paint or write music.
We might observe that there are immature ears of corn, immature savings bonds, immature singing voices, and immature people and behaviors.
How should one begin a meditational post about the last kind of immaturity?
Out of the gate, I want to acknowledge the immaturity in me,¹ and I do so in all sincerity, but a full disclosure would also confess that this piece started out, a couple of months ago, as a less-than-mature, silent tantrum thrown over other people’s immaturities. Below are some behaviors that strike me as immature. Some of these are recent, and some are long past. Some just might be mine, or potentially mine, and some might have been observed in others.
- A young musician takes every opportunity to show off skills and knowledge (say, on the piano or trumpet or saxophone).
- A Little League baseball mom with some knowledge and skills tries to push her way into the coaches’ ring. When her conceited efforts are not appreciated, she begins a campaign to show the assistant coaches she is better than they are. (And actually, she is.) Once, when her child is held at third base, she erupts in the full colors of immaturity by yelling, loudly enough that both sides of the bleachers can hear, “I don’t care what he says! You’re my kid! You run when I tell you to run!!”
- An office worker asserts thoroughly detailed knowledge while manifesting little appreciation for relationship, let alone insight or discernment in particulars.
- A Bible student inserts corrections, responsible questions, and textual insights, regardless of the group’s interest level or capacity for understanding.
- A coworker reacts outwardly to mistakes in punctuation² and regional symptoms of poor grammar.
- An employee takes liberties when the boss is on vacation.
- A parent who’s having a bad day places too many restrictions on a child just because the parent is mad or worried.
No one is completely mature. We all have more or less serious immaturities that come out from time to time. Some of these behaviors are seen in less-than-emotionally responsible, less-than-considerate, and less-than-grown-up people, while others are more run-of-the-mill. Surely there are countless marks of immaturity. Yes, I’ve pointed the finger at others and have been rather irritated over a couple of the above. But again, I’m also aware of some of my own immaturities. We are all carriers of the immaturity disease.
And then there’s spiritual immaturity.
When I drafted this in early July, I knew I wanted to end it with a spiritual emphasis, but I’ve never become settled on a conclusion. It’s not that I don’t have something to ask or something to say (although I often do). It’s not that it’s an awkward segue (although it is). I think it’s that I feel increasingly spiritually immature myself. I don’t handle some things with as much discernment or mature Christian response as I once did, and this is of much greater concern to me than the behaviors listed above. Regression here is worse than ironic; it might be putting Grace to the test.
So, what to say about spiritual maturation . . . I could spout some verbiage about the illusory doctrine of “total sanctification,” as though I were experiencing it. I could manufacture some exhortation about “iron sharpening iron” or “letting go and letting God.” Those might amount to little more than a diversion of attention.
I could cherry-pick any of several mentions of maturity from New Testament passages, but that might prove to be immature in itself. Few of the scriptual mentions seem related to what I have shared above, anyway. Philippians 3:15 has something specific at its root. Hebrews 5:14 might be close, but I’m not sure. Any of these, including the one I am deciding to leave in below, is purloined from its literary context—a times a spiritually criminal act. I will not be satisfied, no matter what I say, how I feel, or however I close this little essay. I am in need of refinement and growth and more maturity—likely more than you are. Perhaps unwisely, I suppose I will opt to finish this with James 1:4, in isolation from its context (although perhaps some readers will read/ponder the context):
Let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
I don’t currently have any illusions of enduring very well, but my weak self hopes to attain to the growth—the maturation—that can come later from having endured.
¹ Some of the following parts of my past and present might at any moment lead to manifestations of immaturity:
- deep losses of human trust
- general irritation and anger at things both big and small
- vocational injustices and misfortunes
- various insecurities
- an ebbing/flowing faith in God (now in an ebb phase), and a sense of not feeling cared for by the Almighty
² “Proper punctuation is both the sign and the cause of clear thinking,” said Lynne Truss famously in