“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a(n adult) I gave up childish ways.”*
What does it mean to speak, think and reason like a child? And when do we grow up and give up childish ways? Is ‘growing up’ something we can control, something to be accomplished with effort and fortitude? And why are there people who just never seem to grow up?
There are many layers of meaning and interpretation in Scripture. One could look at this verse and think of physical growth and maturation. But on a deeper level, it deals with spiritual transformation and maturation.
In his book Human Being and Becoming, David Benner writes:
‘While the contours of ego are present at birth, it takes decades to
cultivate the necessary ego strength to allow a person to eventually
transcend ego and know the spaciousness of being. Ego development
does not happen automatically with the passage of time; it cannot
be rushed, and it is indispensable for both human being and becoming…
The ego is partial and frail, but it believes itself to be whole and absolute.
It’s favorite cognitive strategy is to emphasize difference rather than
sameness. Consequently, it is a master of establishing boundaries
and making comparisons and distinctions…
Everything that the egoic mind knows, it knows by means of comparison.
This is a strategy to make sense of the world by simplifying it – dividing
reality into categories such as inside/outside, subject/object,
pleasant/unpleasant, win/lose…With practice we not longer even
notice that we are making these binary judgments…
Ego simply cannot grasp wholes. Its default strategy is to divide
complexities to make them manageable. But larger wholes are indivisible,
which makes them a threat to ego, since it has only one tool. As the saying
goes, if all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. If all
you have is ego, everything looks like an ego problem than can be neatly
dealt with in terms of either/or binary judgment.
The larger truths that contain both of the partial truths that the binary mind
presents us with are incomprehensible to egoic consciousness. Egoic
consciousness simply cannot provide us with the tools we need to deal
with contradictions, paradoxes, and mystery.” **
It is a long journey to begin grasping the role of ego in decision-making, relationships and especially spiritual transformation. Noticing what irritates, things that hit the defense button we all have, what we ‘disagree’ with or don’t like, who we feel is less-than or more-than, comparing and categorizing – all these judgments are the ego clamoring for attention.
If you desire to grow up and become an adult, ‘effort’ and ‘fortitude’ are flashing strobes of egoic consciousness! Any self-improvement program that involves pulling yourself up by the bootstraps is also ego driven. So where does that leave us?
1 Cor. 13:12 continues, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” We see dimly in a mirror when we look through the eyes of our ego. We see ‘in part’ through the eyes of our ego.
When the Holy Spirit begins the process of dismantling the ‘image’ we have of ourself, it feels like death. Our grasping clenched hands and mind must let go of what has sustained our ego – the carefully crafted image we’ve constructed since childhood.
Yet this very death foreshadows a resurrection, a new birth. The mirror clears and we see face to face – the truth of who we are sees itself reflected back. We know fully because we recognize we are fully known by our amazing Creator! We begin to see ourselves as He does, as He created us.
As we know ourselves fully, we acknowledge the same truth in the rest of His creation – our fellow humans, our earth and other creatures. They are fully known by God as well. Our judgments are suspended, no longer needed. We realize the childishness of our constant scrutiny and evaluation.
Putting aside the naiveté of our ego, we become an adult.
What an astonishing transformation!
Ann Halim, editor, College View Church eWeekend Newsletter
Reprinted with permission
*1 Cor. 13:11
**Benner, pp. 77-80