I don’t usually post from my devotional time, but I was particularly struck by a reading today from the prayer book some of my friends and I have started using:

In his view, the Fall was essentially a matter of wrong growing up. St. Irenaeus believed,a s did many of the early Christians, that Adam was created as a young child. The reason why he was forbidden to eat from the tree of knowledge was simply that he had to grow up first, and that takes time. Unfortunately, Adam was impatient; in trying to anticipate his adulthood, by seizing the fruit before the time was ripe, he thwarted the process of true maturing. St. Irenaeus recognizes that one aspect of this is the disorder that afflicts human sexuality, and in fact we might say that his presentation of the Fall is, essentially, as a mishandling of the crisis of puberty. The result is that man can now only grow up properly by a painful dismantling of his false grown-upness. To this end, the Son of God “came to be a child with us,” so that we could be led back to childhood and then grow up again, this time in a true way, till we come to the full stature of Christ himself (cf. Eph 4:13). — From Prayer by Simon Tugwell

BabyI’m captivated by the metaphor of growing up wrongly, that our sin is a manifestation of our immaturity. When we see CEOs taking advantage of those below them, it’s immaturity.

When we see two grown men bullying each other in election ads, and all their friends stand behind them and cheer them on, this is immaturity.

When we can’t understand someone else’s point of view, even if we disagree with it, that’s immaturity.

When we can’t control our sexual appetites, that’s immaturity.

When we insist that relationships meet our needs and give no thought to how we should be giving in relationships, that’s immaturity.

When we insist that the Church meet our needs rather than taking responsibility for our own Spiritual Formation, that’s immaturity.

Once you look for it, the signs of immaturity are everywhere in our culture. Maybe this Extended Adolescence crisis is the inevitable next step in this progression.

In any case, the Christian faith offers us a remedy: we must regrow up.

We must let that old, sinful, immature self die. We must be reborn, to become like children again, and learn what it means to be an adult in the Kingdom of God, which is truly the Eden we never should’ve left.

And God didn’t just shout the Way down to us from Heaven. God shows us the way. As we approach Advent, we remember that God became a baby. God grew in wisdom and stature before people and God. God showed us what a fully mature, adult spirituality looks like – we have four Gospels full of that story.

YOUR TURN: What do you think of Irenaeus’ read of the Fall? Do you like this picture of Spirituality as Immaturity?

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