Relationships are important to our formation and growth as individuals.
I'm not about to write an essay--I hope--but I've been seeing this play out in different aspects of life. Firstly as a homeschooler. And secondly, as a Christian.
As a little guinea pig of education, I remember hearing adults talk over my head (literally) about how I wouldn't know how to interact with peers and would be socially handicapped. As an older guinea pig, I remember being told this to my face--of course, there were also more polite people who actually asked my opinion on that.
That, for the record, is more in a tongue-in-cheek spirit than a sarcastic one. I don't have hard feelings against those people who once annoyed me--I like to think I've outgrown teenage angst (which yes, I finally developed despite being a sheltered homeschooler.)
Bantering aside, this is a topic I believe strongly and care deeply about, after having thought through it and come to my own conclusion. I won't go into depth here because I'm not writing a blog about homeschooling, though I bring it in here as an analogy as well as part of me. But I thought my thoughts on this were well expressed by this homeschooling mom whose blog I stumbled across:
Then what about socialization? Instead of just seeing it as being able to play with children of the same age group, I prefer this definition (click here to read further about socialization and the case for starting school later):
"Socialization in childrearing means rendering children fit for society so that children can grow and mature into becoming contributing adults, who can respectfully interact with others in community, be it at work or home, with colleagues, family and friends."
Basically, it's about balance. Relationships are important, yes. But you need relationships with different sorts of people, not merely people who are your age--or your sort--or a certain sort--in order to truly develop in a balanced way. In order to truly be equipped for life, which--unless you're in one of those dystopian societies so popular in modern YA novels, where everyone who isn't a teenager is somehow either killed off or irrelevant--is composed of relationships with different people, of different ages.
And the most recent lesson I've learnt is that this applies to spiritual life too.
It may be very tempting--or simply, by circumstance, easy--to be with people of the same level of spirituality, so to speak. Perhaps in your case it's people who are more spiritually mature than you. Or less. Or roughly equal. Whatever it is, you happily stay where you've gravitated--change is painful.
The fact is, it's not beneficial for ourselves when we only interact with one group of people, any group. Each has its blessings and benefits. But each also has its weaknesses and blindspots.
If we stay only in the safe shadow of mature Christians, we'll never experience helping others or taking the lead.
If we stay--or hang out would be a better word--only with our spiritual peers, we may be able to relate on common issues but on the other hand we may all easily be blind to the same pitfalls, and be more of a hindrance than a help.
If we are always a mentor, we will burn out fast, and frequently; or fail to see our own failures and foolishness when others are constantly looking up to us.
I need the encouragement of my spiritual peers; the guidance of my spiritual elders; and the opportunity to serve which my spiritual juniors provide, instead of investing myself wholly in one specific group, which gives me an inevitably imbalanced perspective of myself as well as others.
As I see it, we need to have relationships which aren't limited to only one group of people, in order to grow spiritually. Just as life and growth requires relationships with different sorts of people, of different ages.
Providentially, even if we don't have a good variety of these relationships already in our lives, a church family usually affords the opportunity for us to interact with all these different groups in one setting. Thank God for that. The question, perhaps, is whether we take this chance.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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