Who’s the responsible adult around here?

I heard a shocking statistic a week or so ago. Psychologists say that in America the phase of “adolescence” has now been extended into the early 30’s for a majority of people. There are a variety of causes and that friends, is a whole discussion for another day. But essentially what this means is we have a whole bunch of adults who still behave, believe and respond like teenagers. (Cue the guy in his mom’s basement gaming at 3am on a Tuesday night….) 

It got me thinking, the typical or what we have always called “normal” development in a person is from childhood to adolescence to responsible adult. Somewhere around 25 we assume this will occur. We accept that this is as it should be, and generally speaking, we responsible adults are shocked and aghast by the folks who still live in the self absorbed, impulsive and immature state we left behind after high school or college. So here’s what I have been really asking myself: Who decides what responsible really means? Does culture? My parents? My current peer group? Or does my relationship with God through Christ help me define what a responsible adult looks like? I think, more and more that as I look at my life, I let culture tell me what responsible looked like, and yet in many ways I have lived my adult life still self-absorbed, impulsive and immature. Here are some examples of things I used to believe it meant to grow up and be an adult:

go to college, graduate and get a career started
buy a house
get married
have children
make sacrifices so said children can have the best of whatever I can give them
be involved as a leader in my church and community
get raises, then buy a nicer house

Yours may have looked similar. And none of these are bad or sinful, in fact some are good things, but most are not actually instructions from scripture. The bible does address what to do when you have a family, but never instructs us that we must marry or have children in order to live a life that honors God. Nope, the truth is, I believed all these things because it’s what the world told me I was supposed to do. And yet all the while, I continued to ignore many of the commands in scripture that actually address responsibilities I need to embrace. I have been self absorbed– I have lived largely unconcerned about the global impact of my lifestyle. I have not cared deeply about the spiritual condition of people enough to sacrifice personally to make sure they have a chance to hear the gospel. I have been mainly concerned with my temporary comfort and convenience rather than the basic needs of starving, sick and lost people all around the world. I have been more concerned with my children’s ability to feel normal and fit in (ie. shop at American Eagle), than allocating resources to children with no families at all. I have mostly been relieved to be an American where it’s easy to live, rather than asking what God wants me to do with that gift of freedom.  I have been impulsive– I purchased things I couldn’t afford on credit to feel normal. Like part of the collective “adult club”- people who eat out regularly, go on vacation yearly and buy bigger houses with every pay raise. I have been immature– rather than face conflict head on, I have avoided and placated. I have complained about blessings, forgotten to remember and left people out so I’d feel more in. (Hi, my name is Debi and I’ve been a teenager for the past 26 years…)

What strikes me about all this is that we all call this normal. It’s why it ruffles our feathers when someone suggests we act “radical” and give away possessions or move to another country to take in foster kids- even though those are all just actually obedient behaviors to scripture. We have exchanged the truth- that following Christ is NOT about our comfort, success or happiness in this life, for a lie. We have churches full of adolescent believers and just a few “radicals”. I have been one of them. But slowly, God has been gracious to open my eyes and heart to what He asks of me. To allow me to see myself and ask hard questions about what I see. Over the past few years, and especially this last year, I have begun to see my responsibility as a mature adult christian with new vision. It is not my job to save anybody (that belongs to Jesus) or change the whole world. That is too big for me, and overwhelming, quite honestly. It is my job to follow in the example of Christ and effect change in situations and people as I come to them. Responsibility means my ability to respond. I cannot do everything, but I can do whatever I am able. I fail often, but when I do not, I see God changing me from a selfish and immature woman, into someone new. He uses all the brokenness in this world to refine us as we reach into it to bring His light. 

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