Updated: Feb 2
Last time you heard from me on the blog, I took you back to a vulnerable moment I had when I was just a little girl. Nine-years-old, a professional at making friends, suddenly feeling like I didn't belong and that there was something horribly wrong with me—a lie that took root once I experienced my first bout of rejection at a Spring 2009 camp. And, even further, I gave you an update on that nine-year-old girl, letting you in on the kind of twenty-one-year-old she turned into. Without boring you with the details, let's just say that the same kind of rejection she endured when she was nine was the same kind of rejection she feared in her early twenties. And, if it weren't for the grace of God and His lovingkindness, she would still be haunted by the words that she felt would exclude her forever: "Except for you." But, I let you know in last month's blog that she's learning to hold onto a different word—God's word: "Especially you."
He died for especially me.
He loves especially me.
He wants especially me.
And, the very same word is true for you as well.
He does not count us as insignificant and unimportant. We matter to Him. He loves us. Our lives, in His opinion, are worth dying for.
And, while it's true that my nine-year-old self needed to hear that in order to heal, she now needs to hear something else that I must blog about for the first post of the year. It's something that may sound a little harsh, inconsiderate, maybe even a little cruel to command, but what my nine-year-old self needs to do—especially as she now exists in a twenty-one-year-old body—is spelled out in the title I've given today's post.
The nine-year-old girl eventually has to grow up.
Call it rude, unsympathetic. Call it whatever you want.
But, it's true.
There comes a certain point in every human being's life where they have to do what I've been challenging myself to do in this season:
Because, if I don't?
Well...I think you could agree:
No one likes a twenty-year-old baby.
No one likes a full-grown adult with full-grown responsibilities pouting around and throwing temper tantrums when they don't get their way—full-grown adults who report to their full-time job with a childish, immature, and ill-mannered attitude. These are adults who stopped growing at the age where they were hurt, undeveloped little kids trapped inside fully developed bodies. You want to know a super fancy science term for this kind of description?
We're going there.
If you don't mind me paraphrasing, Arrested Development is when you continue to grow physically, but stop growing mentally. Meaning, you can look and have the responsibilities of a thirty-year-old, but talk, think, and act like a five-year-old. And, perhaps the reason why you act like a five-year-old is because that was the age you were hurt. You were wounded at five. Abandoned, maybe. Or perhaps, at five years old, your innocence was taken from you. And, because your five-year-old self hasn't healed yet, you are a grown-up trapped in five-year-old reasoning. Picture it as a five-year-old stuck in a fifty-year-old body—a ten-year-old trapped in a twenty-year-old body—a kid who is expected to process, handle, and solve adult problems without maturity, discipleship, or parenting.
The image in itself is horrifying.
And, yet, many of us are expected to do this all the time—to make grown-up decisions with our kid brains, to "be a man" when we still feel like a little boy, to "woman up" when we've never gotten the chance to be a little girl. No one in their right mind would assign a kindergartner to grad-school material. It's inane. Impossible to be accomplished, even. And, so it is with demanding the broken little kid in us to operate and behave like an adult.
And, that's why we oughta be patient with ourselves and others when it comes to our own individual healing journeys. The expectations on us are many, and yet, we don't feel equipped to meet them—like a preschooler assigned to write a college essay when they've barely learned their ABCs. So, this process is worthy of compassion and grace. It's understandable why our adult selves still react with childish behaviors once context is given to our pain. But, while I have and will continue to grieve and mourn with my childhood self often—you should too!—it is unacceptable to allow my childish behaviors, patterns of thinking, mentalities and belief systems to stay where they are. This is how my mental and emotional development is arrested. This is how my mental and emotional growth is stunted. I let my old, childish, undeveloped, unlearned, immature and destructive behavioral patterns stop me from being the whole, healthy, mature, free, and healed woman God wants me to be.
In other words, I was hurt as a kid, but I'm not a little girl anymore. My nine-year-old way of healing my childhood pain doesn't work, and my twenty-one-year-old self needs to find and learn a way that actually works.
Before I get to talking about ways that work, it would be unfair to you if I didn't tell you exactly what my nine-year-old ways have looked like, right? After all, I did just tell you to grow up. It's only right to show you my own immaturity as well.
As long as you promise not to judge, take a quick look at the kinds of ways I've found my adult self behaving in.
It goes as follows:
Say I feel rejected, right? Similar to how I felt when I was nine years old. In the same way I would withdraw as a nine-year-old, I still withdraw today. I isolate myself. Everything about my attitude and demeanor screams: DO NOT DISTURB.
You want to reject ME? my nine-year-old self pouts. Well, how about I do us both a favor and don't talk to you or ANYONE ELSE ever again, huh?!
Sometimes, I feel rejected, and I do something I'm a little too good at—as a creative writer and all—and use my words as weapons. Oh, yeah. Like a child, I've lashed out in anger before. I could tell you about yourself with some very creative and colorful language, if you know what I'm saying.
You hurt me? I hurt you.
You fight me with fire? I'll fight you right back.
BRING IT ON!
Though I can't make it any clearer, I'll tell it to you straight—
This is incredibly immature.
It's poor, childish, ugly behavior that screams:
"HELP, I'M HURTING! AND, I WANT YOU TO HURT, TOO!"
It's unhealthy. It's wrong. And, the results are the same—ineffective, damaging, and harmful. Trying to medicate my pain by behaving this way has brought more wounds than I started out with—so much so that I almost had to ask if there's a better way to living this life of mine.
And, here's the part where you're expecting me to say:
"And then, I met Jesus! And, suddenly, forgiving those who hurt me was super easy! And, even though I spent years of my life believing that it's better to isolate myself, suddenly, I no longer do that anymore! And, I never lash out in anger nor do I feel the urge to go back to my old ways of healing my own pain with temporary fixes! Life is perfect, and I'm a professional at living it—WOOPTY-WOO!!!"
I hate to let you down, my friend, but if I told you that, it would not be honest.
Granted, life with Jesus is awesome. And, I mean, awesome. I would not have it any other way. Any other way scares me, in fact. I'd choose Him over anyone or anything any day.
Let me make that clear.
But, even as I knew that He was The Way, The Truth, and The Life, I also knew my way, my truth, and the kind of life I was used to living really, really well. In other words, I had been doing it my way for so long, behaving from my own distorted beliefs for years, and living the way I wanted to live for a while before I met Christ, that when I did encounter Him for myself, all of my ways, "truths," and lifestyles didn't all necessarily go with the snap of His finger.
Now, don't get it twisted, because THIS is true:
GOD SAVED ME. And, I praise Him for it!
I am now in Christ. He gave me a new heart!
But, after years of teaching myself to lash out in anger, to isolate myself, to hurt you with my words if I felt that you hurt me first, those tendencies and urges didn't leave at the flip of a switch. I had to die daily to those things, unlearn those self-sabotaging behaviors, and do what I'm challenging us all to do today:
To simplify it, instead of handling conflict, resolving my pain, and dealing with bullies my way, I had to learn a better way.
Because His way is always better.
It's about to get good.
For those of you followers of Jesus out there ready to beat your head up against the wall because you're still behaving in some old, childish, destructive ways—
You don't have to beat yourself up.
Because, okay, sure. You're behaving in a way that does more harm than good, not at all pleasant, incredibly immature.
But, maybe this is what you need to read today:
You are not what you do.
You are a new creation in Christ, gosh darn it!
You are who He says you are!
So, what does that mean for those unhealthy behaviors you still operate in?
Well, it doesn't mean you're a bad Christian. It doesn't mean there's something wrong with you. It doesn't mean that God is withholding a portion of His saving power from you.
It simply means that the little kid in you just needs some parenting.
And, I've got great news for every single one of us on the blog today:
God is a good, good Father.
He's a Father who knows how to parent you, a Father who knows how to heal you.
He's a Father who is uninterested in embarrassing you, shaming you, or working you until you're weary. He actually wants to touch your wound to heal it, so you can grow and step confidently into the fullness of all that He's offering you in Him.
He's a Father who knows how to teach you.
And, I want to remind every single person reading today, that His classes are always in session.
The moment you say "Yes!" to Jesus, you enroll into His university. You're officially one of His students. The acceptance letter was already sent to your address. And, now, He's inviting you into His classroom!
And, like the first day of any class, you need to meet your professor.
I think you'll love Him!
Well, for starters:
He's humble and gentle at heart (Matthew 11:29).
He's slow to anger and abounding in love (Psalms 103:8).
He does not condemn you when you are struggling to learn His material (Romans 8:1).
He's not the kind of teacher that grows impatient after your first try. He doesn't whack you with a stick when you speak out of turn. His discipline comes from the depth of His love for you, and His love is so deep, not even the ocean floor could compare. He's a loving Father—a patient Teacher.
And, He's ready to teach you.
Teach you what?
The new way.
His instructions on how to live this crazy life well.
They bring life, not death.
Healing, not harm.
Hope, not despair.
Encouragement, not discouragement.
His way is better!
And, if you don't know it, that's okay. He's inviting you to learn it.
Like any grading system, there's levels to this thing. You may not be at the fifth-grade level yet. You may still be in first grade or third. Or, hey! You may even be a senior getting ready to graduate, and you've still got another level to go to in college. We all have something new to learn from Jesus. We all have something new to practice, something we have to get better at. All of us. I don't care how long you've been walking with God. We all have a next step. And, I think we owe it to the little kid in us to take time to take that next step, to grow up, to learn God's way, until we see His face and hear Him say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
But, until then, we take it day by day, dying to the ways we once knew and coming to life in The Only Way that works with The One who knows how to parent us best.