Being a mature adult is difficult work. Taking responsibility for your actions, following through in what you said you will do, being true to your word, living with delayed gratification, going to work when you would rather go fishing and on and on.
Most of us remember the story of Peter Pan–a boy who refused to grow up. Wishing to escape the responsibilities of adulthood, Peter Pan was determined to stay eternally young and carefree in Never Never Land. There is something attractive about this playful approach to life. It offers us the joys of childhood and adolescence without the responsibilities of adulthood.
Caught in the abyss between the man he didn’t want to become and the boy he could no longer be…Children who follow in the footsteps of Peter Pan eventually experience a serious psychological problem that usually leads to social maladjustment. Many of them are emotionally crippled and interpersonally inept. Feelings of isolation and failure abound as they encounter a society that has little patience with adults who act like children. But these people see no reason why they should feel so bad. Viewing their problem as temporary, they do their best to forget about it. Needless to say, it gets worse. ~~Dan Kiley, Peter Pan Syndrome
Spiritually speaking, there are many people who become children of God but never become adults. Although they may be in their 20’s or older, they remain spiritual teenagers.
Know how you can tell if you are dealing with a spiritual adolescent? For one thing they are unstable when the going is rough. Teenage-like adults do not have staying power during difficult times. In short, adolescent adults are too unstable to be obedient. A long obedience in the same direction is not on their radar.
They also display an irresponsibility when the world is appealing. Adolescent adults can frequently resist mild allurements, but when faced with greater temptations to sin, they often cave in without much of a fight. I see it all the time. Teenage adults may say a resounding “NO” to the temptation of stealing or adultery, but easily get themselves in trouble with credit card debt and thus hindering their ability to have an open-handed generosity to those in need all around them.
And when it comes to receiving hard truth spoken into their lives there is incredible push-back. Immature adults are usually stubborn. They refuse to listen to the advice of others and they are unwilling to give up their rights for the good of those around them.
It seems to me that teenage adults in the Church more than ever need the stable and stretching influence of the family of God. No one is going to spiritually grow up on their own. To borrow what has become almost a cliché from the 90’s, “It takes a church to raise a fully devoted follower of Christ.” What is needed more than anything is the steady, stable and edifying influence of sustained co-location of adolescent adult believers with mature saints in the Church.
Ah, yes, but there is the rub. Adolescents historically don’t enjoy hanging out with their parents, unless they need a ride or some money. And adult adolescents don’t need anything, until pain begins to intrude into their lives forcing them to look at reality.
I wish there was another way. Until I find one I stand ready to bind up their wounds with the salve of grace and truth.