We were created to move forward. To move toward maturity. This is obvious in biology and should be obvious when it comes to our emotional and mental faculties. It’s also the obvious goal of the gospel. We were made to grow up and in understanding, we are to be men (1 Corinthians 14:20).
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. (1 Corinthians 13:11)
As children, we are full of potential. The world is a wonderland and we believe we can be anything.
As we move toward adulthood the gate begins to narrow. We become conscious of the fact that we have to let go of all that potential in order to become something in particular.
In order to make it through the eye of the needle and into adulthood, we have to make some sacrifices.
A man may have to surrender his weekend cricket to become a doctor. A young woman may have to give up her job in order to have kids.
Such sacrifices are inescapable. Sometimes welcomed, sometimes painful. But they are what lead to maturity and enable us to take our place in the world as productive, fruitful individuals, capable of benefiting ourselves and those around us.
That said, we can begin to choose our sacrifices early in adult life or we can fool around and let the reality of sacrifice sneak up on us when we hit 30 or even worse, 40.
Adam was created with plenty of potential, but he was young. In eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, suffering and sacrifice bit down hard—and suddenly.
As a result, Adam didn’t become less aware but more aware. He became conscious of sin, guilt, shame and judgement. He also became conscious of good and evil—or the ability to discern and determine good from evil.
The problem was not with the tree. Like everything else that God had made the tree was very good (Genesis 1:31). The problem was Adam’s attempt to gain independence, maturity, and wisdom on his own terms.
So good and desirable was this tree for making one wise and mature that Solomon asks for it directly (1 Kings 3:9). A prayer that God was delighted to answer (1 Kings 3:10).
That was Solomon. Short-lived though his maturity was, he was your complete guy.
Understandably, we want what Adam had before the fall. We want the carefree innocence of a child. And so, rather than move forward to maturity, we opt to become unconscious. We attempt to guard ourselves against sacrifice and responsibility with a retreat to childishness and immaturity.
We become thumb-suckers.
We break easily. We throw tantrums. We seek refuge in bubbles and crayons. We drink to forget and we subject ourselves to the self-hypnosis of mind-numbing TV, online entertainment and childish distractions.
But, as with our biology, so with our redemption, there is no turning back. The way forward is not found in becoming more infantile, but more mature. Not less man, but more man. Not less conscious but more aware.
Aware of the need for sacrifice. Aware of our own sin, our own mortality, our own fragility—and aware of the remedy.
That remedy is Jesus Christ, the complete man, the mature man, who was perfected through sacrifice.
For it was fitting that He, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the Founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:10)
We worry that the cost of maturity is too high. We worry about the loss of potential and the loss of opportunity if we make our way through the narrow gate and so we seek to evade the inescapable necessity for sacrifice.
Thus we are left with the 21st-century spectacle of the old infant. 40-year-old men dressed as superheroes being looked after by their 75-year-old mothers.
This escape to the creche is just another way of rejecting God’s redemption.
But what we find on the other side of our daily sacrifices, which are but shadows of life on the other side of the cross, is not less potential but more potential. Not less opportunity but more opportunity. Not less maturity but more maturity. Not less life but more life.
And God had given us assurance of this very thing, by raising Jesus from the dead.