When I first moved to Nashville at the age of twenty-two, I thought I was pretty grown up. I had lived in an apartment for a couple years, graduated from college, and even worked a full-time job over the summer. But I was really only a half-cooked grown up. I struggled to go to work every day, seriously missing the ability to skip class when I felt like it. I called in sick to work on a regular basis when I just didn’t want to get out of bed. I had a boyfriend who took me on nice dates nearly every weekend where we got dressed up and ate at the best restaurants in town, but we had little to say to one another because we had nothing in common. I went to church once every two to three weeks, exerting my independence after growing up in a house where I had to be there every time the doors were open.
And then one night a friend sat on my couch and sobbed, telling me that she had caught her husband cheating on her. They’d been married for less than six months. My heart broke for her. I remember thinking, this is grown up stuff. I had no idea what to tell her. She was MARRIED. If this had been her boyfriend, I wouldn’t have any trouble telling her to leave him. But he was her husband. She had joined her life with his till death.
I know many people who have been divorced, but a few years ago I had a good friend who decided to divorce her husband. They had children. It was a very messy thing and I got deeply involved in the situation. There were lawyers and private investigators and recording devices and police… I can’t remember how many times I thought, now I’m a grown up. (Note to self… NEVER GET A DIVORCE.)
My younger brother is now twenty-three years old. He is learning what it means to be a grown up. He raced his motorcycle on some big race track in Atlanta last weekend, going speeds up to 155 mph. It scared me to hear what he did, but he was thrilled. He said that day at the race track separated the men from the boys. He is now a man. I smiled, realizing that this was one of those experiences for him where he said, Now I’m a grown up.
Several years ago two beloved young adults in our church died in a car accident. It was horrible. We all sat around for a while staring at one another in shock. We looked to our senior pastor to know what to do. I’ll never forget when he looked back at us and said,
“You all think I should know what to do, but I go behind closed doors with other leaders of this church and we run around with our hands in the air asking, What do we do?! We are clueless too.”
He was having a moment, well into his fifties, when he realized that he’s a grown up.
Recently I’ve had to make some very grown up decisions, walk others who are older and more experienced than me through difficult things that they could not objectively understand. My adrenaline was pumping and I was able to handle the situation with confidence. When the day was over, I couldn’t decide if I should curl up on the couch, go punch a boxing bag, or find some sweet, innocent children to play with for a while. Being a grown up is harder than it looks.
I guess we all go through those times in life when we are in a new situation and it’s truly challenging and the answers aren’t clear. As children, we thought our parents and the other adults knew what to do. Sometimes they did, but many times they didn’t. We are still looking to the generation(s) above us to know the answers, even in situations that are new to them. It seems like part of the growing up process to recognize that there are situations when even the most experienced and wise want to throw their hands up and run around because they don’t know what to do. Sometimes being a grown up means that you evaluate the situation and make the best choice possible given the information you have and you pray to God that it’s the right thing to do. And if possible, you go home after that, curl up on the couch, and let the tears come.