When do We Come of Age?

Young_ladies_at_HarajukuHave you ever thought of that? When do we actually grow up and become adults? I’d love to be part of that old 80’s Toys ‘R’ Us commercial that said “No, I won’t grow up, I’ll always be a kid.” I’d love to be the perpetual Peter Pan, never growing up, always being a kid. But life happens. We grow up. Right? We’re supposed to, at least that’s what people keep telling me.

This morning, I did my usual of going on Wikipedia to see what events in history happened on this day (it’s weird, I know, but I do it anyway…you’d be amazed on what happened back during the days of the Roman Empire…totally). I noticed that on this day in Japan is the national Coming of Age Day. Now, according to Wikipedia (and of course, it’s Wikipedia so you never fully know) this is a national holiday where those who are 20 years of age or will be 20 years of age by April 1 of that year, celebrate becoming adults. They celebrate taking on new responsibilities and being grown up.

I find that interesting. A national holiday to officially state being all grow’d up.

I never had anything like that.

In fact, in the US I wonder if we have anything like that at all? Do we have something that says “Hey, you can stop being a kid now and be an adult.” Not really. Back in high school it was a big thing to get your driver’s license. When one of our friends got theirs, we’d all pile up in their car that very same day and head out. Laws have changed since then. Can’t do that. It used to be graduating from High School showed that you were an adult. But most of us went on to college. And it wasn’t my 21st birthday that made me an adult (I’d already gotten tired of beer in high school…but that’s something all together different). And anyway, I couldn’t even rent a car without high fees until I turned 26.

So what made me an adult? What makes me an adult today? I have car payments, I have house payments, I have two wonderful kids, I have a steady good life as a pastor and married to my loving (and very very very patient) wife. But am I an adult? I have no clue.

Chap Clark, professor of Youth and Family at Fuller Seminary, wrote a book back in 2004 called Hurt. In it he said that adolescence had grown in age range. It now lasted until age 26 (the books in my office and I’m at home right now so I can’t get the exact quote and page number…also, the books since been updated back in 2011). Think about that. All the way back in 2004, ten years ago, the age range for adolescence ranged from 12 to 26. You had early adolescence, mid adolescence, and late adolescence. Even at age 26, you’re not all grow’d up.

r-RITES-OF-PASSAGE-large570Back in high school they said stay in school. Go to college, they said. Get a degree, they said. Follow your dreams, they said. They didn’t tell you that you’d probably wind up back at your parent’s place, sleeping in the basement, working minimum wage to pay off the loans to your VA in philosophy or engineering degree.

We’re still not grow’d up.

There are at times where I still don’t feel like an adult and I’m 37 (it may not help that I have Hotwheels, Teen Age Mutant Ninja Turtles, and a Star Wars lunch box in my office at church). What about those younger than me? Those who were born after the Challenger exploded before our eyes on live TV? Those born after the Berlin Wall fell and who don’t remember the East German judges giving low scores to the Americans during the Olympics? Have we let them grown up? Have we let them become adults?

And do they want to be adults?

The thing that grabbed my attention about the Wikiepdia article on Japan’s Coming of Age day is the fact that it’s been in decline for the last 5 years. The article states that this is due to a low birthrate and a large number of 20 year-olds who don’t see themselves as adults.

Where are we at with all that? Have we let the Xers and Millennials feel like adults? Have we actually stepped out of the way and allowed them to become all grow’d up?

Paul says something interesting in 1 Corinthians. He’s talking about maturing in the faith. It’s right after the most memorized (and also out of context used for weddings) passages about love. Paul writes

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:11-12

In other words, Paul grew up. It doesn’t say that he moved out of his parents basement. It doesn’t say that he took on a mortgage. He grew up. More than that, he matured in his faith in Jesus. And as he grew and matured, he began to see more clearly, to know more deeply.

Maybe this coming of age thing is all blown out of proportion or maybe it’s something that we need right now?

Maybe we could use some sort of ceremony, some sort of physical passage, to mark one moving from adolescence into adult hood.

How can we help people move from being that perpetual child we might be guilty of forcing them to be and blossom into being the adult God wants them to be?

How can we have a coming of age? What would it look like? Wish I knew cause I’m going back to my comics for now. The new Thor is awesome.

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