How Adulthood Is Like High School All Over Again
Christian authors and speakers have a lot to say about the topic of identity: a quick search of christianbook.com turned up 315 different resources on the theme of identity in Christ. While I've heard plenty of sermons about my identity in Christ, most of them are variations of "Whatever your sinful flesh tells you to do, just do the opposite." Excluded from the office lunch gang? The old you might have some flashback emotions to that time when your so-called friends didn't invite you to sit with them during 5th period lunch. A new creation in Christ will count it all joy, and eat her tuna sandwich alone at her desk, humming "Just A Closer Walk With Thee."
There may be a measure of truth embedded in this approach, but it is not a full portrait of redemption if it divides us from our own humanity rather than redeeming it. Instead of trying to hum our way through a lifetime replaying high school, Psalm 86:11 reminds us that we don't need to endeavor to ignore the mess of growth: "Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name." The fruit of reverent dependence on God is our wholeness – a wholeness that embraces our adolescent growing pains as formational to our identity, rather than asking us to pretend they never happened and don't exist.
In the church, leaders, mentors, and peers would do everyone a service by avoiding talking only in terms of "new Creation in Christ" triumphal metamorphosis. We would do well to acknowledge in sermon and conversation that we are in process, and this process has a lot to do with recognizing there's an awkward teenager in the cocoon. When church politics rears its ugly head in a congregation, part of the conversation might well include a look at the adolescent insecurities and triggers each one of us carries.
One of the best movies ever made about high school, The Breakfast Club, ends by noting that each one of us has an identity far more complex than the labels we give to ourselves and each other. Each of us is "a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case. A princess, and a criminal." The One who made us knows this about us far better than we could ever know it ourselves, and loves us as we are, where we are… even at the high school smoking area.
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