Adult – A definition

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Have you ever heard of Evernote? It’s a free app that is FAR superior to the “notepad” app that came with your phone. This one enables you to make your own notebooks and organize your notes in a more sensible/personal fashion. One of my largest and ever-growing notebooks is titled “Things to Think On”; whenever I hear an interesting quote in a sermon, read a thought-provoking statement in a book, etc, I put it in the notebook so I can go back and meditate on it. Often, these little notes end up being titled based on their subject material, like “Courage – A definition”. This post is a lot like one of those notes, only a bit too long to put in my phone….

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Tonight, I was struck with something: being adult means you’re not just responsible for yourself.

Don’t get me wrong, you most certainly must be responsible for yourself to fit the “adult” bill properly, and I think I do a pretty good job in this realm. (Granted, I currently don’t own a vacuum, up until two months ago I didn’t know how to change a flat tire, and I completely spaced on my social security number at the bank last week, but I blame that last one on a major obstetric exam I’d just finished.) To be honest, a lot of my inner dialogue lately has been centered on how mature I’m finding myself; I think I’m approaching many things in my life in a way that’s different, and dare I say, “more adult”, than many young, single women in my age bracket. (Sometimes when you write down the things you really think about yourself, you see how truly prideful, not to mention absurd, they are….)

Well today provided the perfect earthquake to show how fragile my newly constructed house-of-self-perception-cards actually was; the breaking down of an already broken mindset allowing for truth to build a new foundation. The youth group is getting ready to do a service project, and I’ve taken it upon myself to collect permission slips from the students as they come in (1 point for Jessi’s leadership skills. Responsible adults identify the steps required and take action.) Everything was going perfectly. I’d collect the sheets, or send the students off to collect their parent’s signatures before their rides left.

But then student after student came in without the required slip, and with no way of obtaining written permission from their guardian. When they asked me what to do, my first thought was, “Me?! I don’t know, and I’m certainly not the person to ask in this situation. That’s a problem to give to one of the more-in-charge youth leaders, not me.” But then I realized, you know what? Being a youth worker means I need to be someone who can be crazy with the students, counsel them about their life and the Lord and make the tough decisions. The idea scared me a bit; here I was being consulted on the options for another person’s actions. That’s a lot of responsibility. I took a deep breath, (called the head youth worker), and started making decisions. Not very comfortable for me, but not too bad.

Or so I thought. I soon discovered that I needed verbal permission from the parents directly in replacement of a signed slip. This, of course, makes perfect sense; my solution, upon reflection, was to get the kids to do their own dirty work (decent enough, right?), which also protected me from an awkward situation: calling parents I do not know, to ask their permission include their child in a project they might not even know about. A major step outside Jessi’s “avoid-even-merely-possible-conflict-at-all-costs” framework.

But, yet again, here I realized that this is part of the gig: adulthood, especially leadership in ministry, requires me taking responsibility not only for myself, but also, or even especially, for others around me. If I’m worried about getting my hands dirty in order to protect my own hide, this isn’t for me. Something’s wrong with my thinking here.

Being an adult has so much more to it than the way the world portrays adulthood. I not only pay my own bills, but I look out for others’ welfare too (Phil 2:4 anyone?). Christ-like maturity doesn’t mean being grown-up to the point where I don’t have to answer to anyone (aka, the teenager’s dream); it means dying to myself, my comfort, my natural way of going about things, my preferences, my own ideas, for the sake of someone else.

The practical aspects of this idea still have some fearful outlines to me. I have so much growing up to do…

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