Babies move toward maturity in a process that lasts a lifetime. Take for example our precious two year old great-grandson, who unfortunately lives halfway across the country from us. Due to the advent of modern technology, we get to see some of his development occurring by SKYPE. Pictures of his growth from newborn to infancy to early childhood show the changes in his appearance and abilities. Face timing allows us to see him learn to crawl, to walk, to learn a few words, to watch him develop using some of his toys, learning how to say a few words, and now he can say about 42 words, at just over two years of age. It’s most enjoyable to see him relate to his Mom and Dad, and to his grandparents as well.
Believe it or not, we have been able to watch him develop the first step to maturity – TRUST, which is ideally accomplished by 18 months of age. It’s easy to see that he does have a trust relationship with his parents, who take precious care of him and direct a lot of time and attention toward him. Now that our daughter and her hubby have moved to the area where he lives, we can see that he is rapidly developing a trust for them too.
Trust is the assumption that others are basically not evil-doers who intend to hurt or destroy you, but rather that they are supportive and inclusive people who will respond positively to you. In the area of Spiritual Development, trust for others begins the process of being able to trust God. So many individuals who have experienced major difficulties, such as rejection or abandonment in their first 18 months of life, and perhaps beyond that, find it most difficult to trust God to be caring and supportive of them. If your needs, especially the emotional needs for reassurance, comfort, acceptance, tenderness and love are not met, you learned to trust no one. You would actually learned mistrust. One learns to go it on their own, relying only on self for survival. It’s easy, as years go by, to distrust God and even others who claim to represent Him.
Trust is the foundation for building a healthy character, just like a well-built foundation is the basis for a solid structure, a solid house or other building. The same is true for individuals. In the months of foundational construction, dedicated commitment, careful attention and abundant time must be the building blocks for the person to stand for the years to come. Trust in one’s self, trust in others, trust in a power outside of self, and a sense of being accepted form the firm foundation. The result of having built a foundation known as trust is a feeling and experience of HOPE – a positive outlook on life and the future.
Our Ezekiel is currently well on his way to developing the second step toward maturity – AUTONOMY. This involves the ability to make decisions on his own; to make choices in his mind (like which toy to play with) and make the move toward doing so.
The second step in Emotional and Spiritual Development is autonomy (or should be) accomplished by age three. Autonomy is a sense of independence, self-sufficiency and self-government. If a child has developed the foundation of trust, then the expansion into Autonomy begins – walking, talking and getting what is wanted by the child himself, instead of waiting for someone to bring it to him, because he is now mobile. Ezekiel chooses his toy, walks over to his little rocking chair and rocks for a while or even gets on his little motorcycle and pedals away, without being directed to do so.
This is a period of exploration and looking back to make sure parents are still there. This is where an “I can do it” attitude begins to develop, and as no major trauma comes along to sabotage success, one develops WILL – the determination to move forward in growth and the ability to make decisions. If sabotaged by abuse or neglect, one is left with SHAME and DOUBT and a dependence or co-dependence on others.
The ability to make decisions in the spiritual realm is somewhat dependent on the total ability of decision-making, and takes place along with brain development also. Mistreated or ignored/abandoned early in life, assigns resentment to God for that same painful experience, and a feeling that God does not care. This leaves us with the idea that there must be something wrong with us, and that God does not care for us any more than important people in our early life did. As adults, living with shame and doubt sabotages our ability to live with confidence, stability and the ability to make good, healthy decisions.
Can you see how not being able to trust your parents to provide all of your needs as a young child can end up with mistrust for others and for God? To become Spiritually Mature, one has to have accomplished the ability to trust, not only parents who stand in the place of God to us, but also others we relate with in our developing years. To develop will and the ability to make decisions that are whole and healthy, one has to develop autonomy – the ability to make decisions and to trust the decisions we make.
Look back now to your beginning years, remembering that the first two years are for Attachment – attaching emotionally to your primary caregiver. Ask yourself:
– Was your primary attachment figure your birth mother?
– Did you attach emotionally to your father between birth and age seven?
– Did you feel secure with your primary caregiver? (meaning that you felt you could count on that person to be available and ready to assist in times of need or distress)
It is out of the security you felt that you developed the ability to trust.
Now spend a bit of time asking yourself how well you trust yourself and others currently, and how well you trust God to “supply all your needs according to His riches in glory.”
Ask yourself how you are at making decisions that are healthy; decisions that have considered all of the ramifications of your choice. And how good are you at sticking to the decisions you make and overcoming the obstacles you face without running away from commitments and choices made.
In the next article, we’ll look at the next couple of steps toward Emotional and Spiritual Maturity. God bless you as you look in the mirror, so to speak, at how far you have come in the process of that maturity.