The Unglamorous Road of Christian Maturity
I tend not to write from my experience. The reason is not that I discredit experiences—both mine and others—but that I firmly believe it more beneficial for others (and myself) to read statements and explanations of those statements to consider, ponder, and apply. Sharing experiences has an important place for relating to one another, but it's ineffective in truly piercing the heart. That is why, as I share my exploration of the Christian faith, I take the things I find and learn, and I write so others can behold them as they are, not necessarily how I've experienced them or feel about them.
That said, this article breaks the norm to an extent.
Over the last year, many good changes have occurred in my life, more than I have ever experienced. I married an amazing woman, and just before our first anniversary, we welcomed our daughter into the world. In that time, I published my second book, How Do We Glorify God? and began a podcast as well. My responsibilities have increased exponentially, making it difficult to continue writing with the same volume as before. It's not so much that I don't have the time, but that the energy is lacking. In short, it's a new season of life for me.
As I reflect on this change, the thing I most notice is how unglamorous spiritual maturity is. Many changes in my life, yet my growth as a Christian continues at an average pace of highs and lows. To be sure, every new thing in my life is a new opportunity and catalyst for growth, but they are not in themselves checkpoints in maturity. Spiritual maturity is unglamorous because there are no defining checkpoints, nor ribbons and trophies along the way. It's just forward progress.
Alongside progress is maintenance. Owning a yard during the summer months means constant mowing, weeding, and watering. It means constant cleaning and upkeep. Starting a family means endless laundry, dishes, and dirty diapers. These are all routine duties, and it seems as soon as one task is completed, it must be done again. Spiritual maturity is unglamorous because it is repetitive.
The Bible speaks of both aspects of maturity, and Romans 12:1-2 seem to be the defining verses:
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
In the world's eyes, this is an unglamorous lifestyle to pursue. First, Paul's tone is urgent: "I urge you, brethren." Second, his appeal is to live contrary to the world: "Do not be conformed to this world." Third, his correction is repetitive: "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." When Paul combines all three, it is as if he stirs the unglamorous pot of spiritual maturity.
Most people do not like others telling them what to do, let alone telling them to get it done immediately. They might dutifully complete the task, but they most certainly won't delight in doing it. But Paul urges us nonetheless to pursue spiritual maturity, and he has good reason for it. If we tie this urgency with Paul's previous gospel-saturated eleven chapters, there is every reason for us to delight in spiritual maturity. What was unglamorous to the world and our sinful selves becomes our delight and joy in the gospel.
The same goes for his appeal and correction. If we see the destruction of the world through their thin veil of glamorous fun and games, we will be relieved and full of gratitude instead of regret. If we meet the God of the Universe and His salvific plan for us in His Word each time we renew our minds, our love for Him grows, and so does our delight in Him.
Spiritual maturity may seem unglamorous at times, especially when there is repetitive and challenging work to do. Still, when we consider what blessed state we are truly in, we grow in and through the gospel, and therein our duty turns into delight.
So, for myself, I must press on in spiritual maturity regardless of the accomplishments and defining moments of life. That means pressing on, reminding and being reminded, reading and rereading, and pursuing the joy of Christ through it all.