by Brother Matt Henson
Maturation from newborn to adult moves through several stages where an individual is learning new concepts and coming to a better understanding of their identity and place in this world. For the past several weeks, graduation festivities have been at the forefront of my family’s life as we celebrate a high school and community college graduation. These milestones are a reminder to me of the “growing up” process of each of my children.
This movement from babyhood to adulthood includes a progression from dependence to independence to interdependence. In the beginning, a baby is dependent on his/her parents to take care of their most basic needs. As the child develops and grows, they begin to take on some of the responsibilities like feeding oneself, though they may not cook the food. The adolescent years are a time of exercising more independence, which can create conflict as the individual asks more questions and peers become more influential in their lives.
Ultimately, evidence of maturation is the final movement to interdependence when a person recognizes the need for independence in tandem with dependence. It is the recognition that we need one another and are created for relationships.
The problem in Western Culture for far too long has been the emphasis on individualism. This creates a reality of each person being an island, in charge of their own life without consideration for anyone else. E. Stanley Jones in his 1944 book Christ of the American Road writes:
“The doctrine of individualism is working havoc in American life. If the individual is an end in himself, then you produce an undisciplined type of character, and consequently an undisciplined country. The desires, the appetites, the passions, the interests of the individual, his position and power, become the driving urge and the goal. And when that happens you are headed for disruption and frustration. That has happened with us. We are an undisciplined people.”
This statement, though written nearly 80-years ago is true of our nation and even our church in the United States. When we become so independent that we miss out on the need for the community around us, we neglect discipleship within community. We lose our focus on taking care of one another and living a life of humility and service. Paul writes in Philippians 2:1-5:
“If, then, there is any comfort in Christ, any consolation from love, any partnership in the Spirit, any tender affection and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”
As we continue in this season of life milestones and celebrations, I pray we will recognize our own need for growth in interdependence and need for one another. We will enter deeper relationships with other people and will notice a growing discipline and order in our lives. We need one another as we continue to grow in our knowledge and relationship with Christ.
Thank you for being some of “my people” who encourage and invite me to grow in Christ.