Are You Growing Old or Growing Up?Fr. Barnabas Powell
Life is an amazing adventure and an amazing gift. But part of this life is the daily challenge of actually being awake to that amazement and the call to progress ion our lives.
George Bernard Shaw once said “Youth is wasted on the young.” What he meant by that is when we have great strength and potential, we are still too immature to take full advantage of our possibilities, and when we gain the wisdom of the years, we tend to have less energy and even less time to take full advantage of our hard won insights.
But I’m not sure that’s all together accurate. There seems to be great wisdom in the slowing of life toward the end to offer the opportunity to contemplate and do the inner struggle more purposefully as we gain on our mortality.
The truth is, and the mystery of life is, that God has created me to be a free, unique, and unrepeatable person. This means that each of us incarnates our common human nature in an unrepeatable way. There just isn’t another “you” out there. There never has been before, and there never will be again. Your unique and distinctive person is one of a kind. How sad we clutter that beauty with mundane passions and habits that always try to reduce us to this or that stereotype.
But that is always the purpose of the fallenness of this world; to reduce, to empty our lives of uniqueness and mystery. We prideful humans are always convinced we can exhaust the mysteries of life into fine categories or explanations. Silly really.
So, how do we face our own mysteries of life and actually progress as we are meant to progress toward a spiritual maturity that preserves the child-likeness of faith and the robust maturity of wisdom?
The path to that place of maturity and joy is hinted at in our Gospel Lesson and our Epistle Lesson today.
You know our Gospel Lesson well. It is the story of the woman who has been ill for some time. She hears Christ is coming through her town and she says to herself “If I can just touch the hem of His garment, I’ll be healed.” (see Mark 5:24-34) Well, she does touch the hem of His garment and she is healed. But I want you to look at what the Lord says in the middle of this crush of people around Him: “Who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:30)
Our Lord was so aware of Himself and the moment He was in that He knew someone had touched Him in deep and strong faith. He didn’t ask this question because He didn’t know the answer. He asked the question to teach His disciples a powerful lesson in spiritual maturity and joy. Jesus was so tuned into His own life and inner Person that when something significant happened, He knew. His wakefulness about His own life and power set Him free to be completely aware of His surroundings and the people around Him.
There is something powerful about realizing that internal difficulties can only be solved by internal work. Both the woman who touched Christ and Christ Himself both had internal focus and even decisions of their will before this moment of miracle occurred. They had the collection of past experiences and insights to draw from and all that internal work, even through suffering, had coalesced in a moment of faith and action to bring to light healing, grace, and power.
In our Epistle Lesson today, St. Paul tells the Galatians that the human race had been tutored by the Jewish Law until Christ came and now it was time to grow up into a mature spiritual life and learn those lessons. But the maturing process would dismiss old lines of separation between people and that a unity of purpose and peace was the result. We are meant to be transformed from slaves to sons of God.
And that process comes when we face the truth that the lessons learned have to be actually learned and applied to our lives. The internal growing up process can’t be ignored or short-circuited without real and dire consequences.
So, Today, are you placing proper priority on your internal spiritual labors? Are you learning the lessons of your past mistakes and successes to the point that you are more aware of your strengths and weaknesses and can see trouble or opportunity coming before it gets to you in your life? If so, then you are growing up instead of merely growing old.
Today, allow all your life, your experiences, your knowledge of the Faith, to draw you to deeper understanding of yourself and your surroundings. Do the internal work necessary to “wake up” to the continual work of maturing in Christ and maintaining that child-like joy that forever energizes your continued journey in life. Don’t waste one moment. Learn to embrace this spiritual journey knowing your unique person was meant to be both fully alive and mature so that you will be equipped in your soul to enjoy being with God forever. Do this, and you will not only witness your own transformation, but the grace of your faith will “spill over” everyone around you.