I’ve been in the people-helping business for a long time, in one aspect or another: nursing, health upgrading, clinical psychology. I saw good things happen in each of those eras of my career. But the most exciting change for me was the shift in focus from the healing of wounds to the development of maturity. My introduction to this new paradigm was the book The Life Model and Dr. Jim Wilder’s teaching videos from 1999.
I had been on a long journey of my own to heal from A Trauma wounds. Somehow back in the 90’s it got through to me that I was not just wounded but also immature. Sadly I was already in my 40’s and felt so far behind. I began desperately begging God to grow me up. I had no idea how to do it, knowing I had definitely missed the sweet spot for the development of emotional and spiritual maturity. Whatever was supposed to happen, hadn’t. I knew someone was supposed to have done something for me, to me, about me, with me, but I had no clue what it was. And no idea how to get there.
Therefore the desperate cry of my heart, “Grow me up!” Then I read in The Life Model something that confused me. “Maturity is not a spiritual gift nor is it a byproduct of salvation. It is something we, as Christians, must work at our whole lives.” (I knew that part.) “Salvation, deliverance, healing and redemption – these are all God’s domain. God graciously and miraculously does all these things for us because we cannot do them for ourselves. But maturity is our domain.” That was the hard part because I felt SO dependent on God to do a work in me I didn’t know how to do myself. How could developing maturity be my domain? How could I untangle my job of maturing from his job of healing me from the wounds that kept me from maturing?
Then one day, I was driving a congested freeway in the Chicago suburbs on my way to an appointment. I was asking God to get me there safely, when I had a moment of clarity. I saw the difference between his job and my job in that circumstance right then.
His job, if it was in his plan for me, was to protect me from other driver’s actions and random events that I couldn’t control. But what I realized about my part was the real breakthrough. I had to meet him halfway by being willing to stay open to his prompting so that he could guide me – warn me to slow down or avoid a certain truck or really pay attention right now.
That may sound simple and obvious, but a hallmark of my immaturity was stubborn resistance, not being responsive to guidance. If I wanted to go fast, I would set my chin and go fast. As much as I knew all the verses about obedience and wanted intimacy with Jesus, I hadn’t yet seen how that familiar feeling of resistance was a maturity issue I could do something about.
From then on I began a discipline of saying, “Dear Father, as I drive, please protect me from the actions of others and events that I can’t control. And I pledge to you that I will do my best to be attentive to your voice as you guide me about my driving and my focus and my attitude. I want to be responsive to you as a cooperative child with a wise and loving parent.”
My first of these lessons was also in the car. I became aware that I would stubbornly refuse to put on my seat belt each time I remembered that I should. By God’s grace (even though I was stubbornly resisting him at the time) I realized how self-destructive that was, and I made a tiny maturational leap. I decided that every time I realized I didn’t have my seat belt on, I would immediately put it on, even if I were only 2 minutes from home. I've never forgotten that moment, that small beginning in learning to be responsive rather than resistant, cooperative rather than stubborn.
When I hear a truth or learn a new concept, especially in the area of spiritual life or human relationships, I’m not content until I can grasp it at a doing/being level for myself. The lessons of the seat belt and how to stay safe on the highway have given me little pictures of a big truth. Doing my job goes beyond grasping the concept of obedience and submission. It means putting on the darn seat belt when I feel like resisting, and being willing to follow simple guidance on the road like “slow down,” “look to your left,” and “don’t pass that truck.”
I know that many, many times I've asked him to do my part in this interactive relationship we call the Immanuel Life. I’m aware and very grateful that my healing God has met me in the dependency of infant maturity and the messiness of child maturity that gets mixed in with adult responsibilities and relationships. But if I want to grow up, I will learn not to expect my parent to do my chores for me, and I will stop stubbornly resisting correction. My loving Father will help me grow, but I must take his hand and pledge to do my part.