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Monday, September 26, 2011

Guest Post: Growing Up

Growing Up

Guest Post
Writer: Mike Print
Visit his blog @ http://mikegprint.wordpress.com

Courtesy of Google Images

After a break of a few months I had the opportunity to delve into a little more of Rowan Williams' theology. For anyone who has followed my blog (and I think Jessica is possible the only one!!) they will have noticed that in the past I've been challenged and encouraged by the present Archbishop of Canterbury who has cut quite a controversial figure in England over the past few years. In trying to get to grips with what Rowan believes, which because he is an academic is far harder that just reading his books, I decided to read Mike Higton's 'A Difficult Gospel: The Theology of Rowan Williams'. This post is a reflection upon on of those chapters 'Adulthood and Childhood'.

Childhood in its extreme can, of course, best be seen in the new born baby. For him or her, their entire world, rightly revolves around them. They sleep until they want something and then they scream until they get it and this is 'infantile' in its most basic form. As we look around the world and as we look inside ourselves we, to a greater or lesser extent, see the infantile in many who are no longer infants. Whenever we're selfish or demand our own way we are showing those around us that tendency which has been with us from birth. What matters to us is what is most important and we are metaphorically going to scream until we get it. The other day I went shopping with Natalie, my fiancee, and being selfish as I wasn't in the mood for shopping, I was grumpy and made sure she knew it. I was infantile and acting like the world revolved around me and tried to manipulate the world to get it to conform to my desires. As Higton puts it, Williams believes that:

'We are beset... by the infantile temptation to imagine ourselves on the verge of completeness. If I just had that thing, we say, I would be happy: I wouldn't need anything more. I look at myself, calculate the size and shape of the gaps in my life, and then hunt for the things or people or experiences that will fill them.'

So as you can see being infantile, being a child has nothing necessarily to do with age. Anyone from the person who has turned one hundred down can all be or remain infantile their entire life.

Adulthood then is the moving away from the subconscious belief, backed up by selfish actions, that the world revolves around me. To become an adult we must come to realise more and more that 'I' is not the centre of the universe, that others exist and have a say and that in fact the world may care little for my selfish desires. Becoming truly adult then is something which many people do not fully obtain regardless of how long they've lived and whether or not they can legally drink alcohol, vote or drive a car. As Williams says:

'The self becomes adult and truthful in being faced with the incurable character of its desire: the world is such that no thing will bestow on the self a rounded and finished identity.'

The problem then is how we move in the direction of the adult; how do we set aside the infantile desire to be the centre? For Williams, and for me, the answer lies in God and His grace in doing what otherwise could not be done - the continued movement from infant to adult in those who trust Him, Higton sums up:

'Grace awakens us to a vision of the self not as controllable and nearly complete, but as continually being given more, continually receiving not just neatly packaged extras, but transformation, real growth, unexpected reordering, from others who genuinely are others, rather than projections of our own desires. Grace invites us... into an economy of giving, which is grounded ultimately in the complete self-giving of God.'

It is only in recognizing that God should be at the centre of our world, that we become free to interact in the correct and most meaningful way with others with whom we share that world. No wonder Christ sums up the teaching of God as loving God first and people second, because we can only love others as ourselves when, in the first place, we love God completely (Matt 22:37). As I think back to my behaviour when shopping the other day I realise I continue to need God's help to love Him more, putting Him more at the centre of my life, so that I can love Natalie more and love her as much if not more than myself.

Any thoughts? Please share them in the comments section! Thank you!


  1. There is constant battle between the I and the intellect.. Like the two sides of a mirror.
    The ability to discriminate between the ego, wisdom, and knowledge requires understanding the self... hence the journey of the self begins.
    "No wonder Christ sums up the teaching of God as loving God first and people second, because we can only love others as ourselves when, in the first place, we love God completely"
    I beg to differ about your above comment... I believe that god or for some.... divine energy is within me... and everyone else...therefore there should be no division or slotting or placing a number on who to love first.
    Thank you

  2. Inspiring post, Mike, and so very, very true! If God is not first in our lives, everything falls apart. We can only love because He loved us first and we must respond in kind.
    Always enjoy your thoughtful writing!

  3. Great post Mike! I second Martha - she summed it up perfectly!

    Have a blessed day!

  4. Very inspiring Mike...thanks for bringing this to us Jessica.

  5. When I realized I was still infantile is when I had kids and had to work around all of their needs

  6. I second Ann's comment. Until we had our son, I believed I was a mature, patient woman but I have seen so many areas in my own life, emphasized by motherhood where I fall short and am selfish, in my own way, screaming that what I want and desire should come first and grumbling when I feel my "rights" being impinged upon. I guess my eyes have been opened to the fact that I am in desperate need of God's grace and that I have a lot of growing up to do. Excellent post!

  7. Mike, I don’t blame you for sulking at the shopping gig :-) God probably felt your pain too. Set your boundaries now, before it’s too late… heeee!

  8. A bit of a paradox that we must give up our childish ways and yet become more child-like in the process: And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." -- Matthew 18:3

  9. As coach, blogger and most specifically a speaker, i believe i have to make myself the centre of attention to be able to fulfill my purpose of making a difference through teaching personal development. And probably for the next 20 minutes you will be the centre of mine while i contemplate your message. But that means you just wrote a great thought provoking article. So thank you.

  10. Thanks Debra, worth working out boundaries but also loving your partner through giving them your time doing things which you'd rather not do :-)

  11. Thanks Linda, you're right though of course they are different metaphors. I think the child-likeness is about trust and faith in a God who is our Father and to become more like that means becoming less child-like in putting ourselves at the centre!

  12. Thanks Larry, of course the ultimate centre of attention in your speaking engagements should be the other person as you help them develop their potential but I get your point. As a preacher I have to guard against feeling like an important person and remember I am just the messenger :-)