As a dad, I’ve spent a lot of time and energy over the years getting my kids to recognize when they needed to go to the bathroom, then to learn how to do so on their own and ultimately to do so without announcing it to the household… or congregation, or the folks in a crowded restaurant, or… well, you know the drill.
It looks as though we have succeeded in getting all of ours to the place where they will not starve just because someone doesn’t come and make them sit down to eat.
That’s what parents do, isn’t it? We try to get our kids to learn how to do things so that we don’t have to hold their hand every minute or whatever extreme we might come up with that is an example of kids not really growing up.
Growing up… is what we want and need to help our kids accomplish. It’s not that we’re getting them to where they don’t need us, but rather that they will need us in more mature ways, adult ways… until the shift comes full circle and we need them to care for us.
As Paul was encouraging and challenging his dear friends in Thessalonica, his children in the faith, he pushed them to continue growing in their faith. But he gives a glimpse of the kind of faith he hopes to see in them… and in us:
“And to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (1 Thess 4.11-12).
When I look at the way the world operates around me, it appears that the people that show genuine maturity are the ones who are trying to do the things that need to be done for the people around them and who don’t feel the need to announce what they do to the world (of course, where would Instagram be without people announcing to the world what they’re doing every step of their day?).
Paul challenged us to seek to not only grow in the way we love people, but to seek to “live quietly, and to mind your own affairs.” It seems spiritual maturity looks a lot like emotional maturity. It is not a life that doesn’t need anyone else, but the ability and willingness to do what is needed—even if that is simply to find the help we need.
Paul urged them “to work with your hands.” I know that, as a dad, one of the things that makes me most proud is when people say of one of my kids that they are hard workers or that they really know how or are not afraid of hard work. We need to work. None of us were put here to just sit.
The apostle explains his desire to these things—in order that they would “walk properly” and “be dependent on no one.” I think he’s saying that he wants us to learn how to walk in this world without being just like those who don’t know God. We shouldn’t need others to tell us how to live, even though we need each other in so many ways.
Paul, the loving, encouraging, challenging mentor, seems to say, “Yo, grow up.”
Father, I want to grow up into all that you have for me. Teach me.