Authored by Chris Cedar (a guest contribution)
A barrel of wine gets finer over a period of time. It is often left in a basement cellar to reach a ready state. However, not each barrel is the same. Each one has its own point at which it will yield the greatest benefit and flavor.
But who makes the distinction? Who can evaluate how the barrel is progressing and in which ways improvement may still be needed? That is the job and ability of the winemaker. He is the one who plans the course of each barrel, keeps a watchful eye on the progress, and tests the result. Only the winemaker can say with certainty when the time is right to draw out and bottle the wine, and determine where it will be sent. Through his experience and instruction, an ordinary batch of grape juice can come to grace a king’s table.
Maturity often refers to the fact that someone has been through life experiences that have deepened and shaped their character so that they behave more wisely and responsibly than before. It means they have gained quality of soul and character, which makes them a better person. Of course, there are different types of maturity—physical maturity, as in the natural aging or development of your body; emotional maturity, which is how someone learns to control their emotions; maturity of character, which comes as we learn from our experiences; and spiritual maturity, which for us as Christians is about our walk with Jesus and how we live our faith.
We will each grow in different aspects of maturity at different times and in different ways. But one thing that is true of maturity for everyone is that it is a quality which is gained through time or experience—just like that barrel of wine matures with time. The more we grow in our relationship with God and learn through decision-making processes, the more we generally grow in maturity—whether in our spirit, our emotions, or our character.
It can be easy to want to rush the process and to wish we could be mature and wise all in one shot. I’ve felt that way at times. Sometimes when I go through a difficult experience, I feel a bit like a barrel of wine stuck in a dark cellar. I cannot see what’s ahead. I can’t tell what I must become, much less how to become it. I feel lost and wonder if I’ve been forgotten by the Master Winemaker. I wish the process could be over so that I could emerge more mature and wiser than before. But yet the process takes its time. I have to remember that there is a watchful eye on me and I have not been overlooked. The Master Winemaker has been in charge the whole time—from the moment I was born. Through the pressing and the purging—and even now in this dark place—He knows what I need, and He knows what He needs from me. As I sit in distress, He is calmly saying, “Not long now.” He has brought me to a place where I will learn to put my confidence more fully in Him, and as I do I will find myself increasing in faith, trust, and patience—all things that will help me to grow in spiritual maturity.
For believers, spiritual maturity not only comes from our experiences and our choices, but also from our Master, through His words to us and our application of them. It is not a quality we can gain fully on our own. One remarkable definition I found for “mature” is this: “maximum development … of form or vigor of action … as with a stream that has begun to widen rather than deepen.”1 This is in relation to geology, but it could apply to human nature as well.
I was intrigued by this concept. We often try, time and again, to “widen”—to expand, do better, be more successful, or “find ourselves”—to be more in our own eyes and in the opinions of others, rather than first “deepening” by spending time with Jesus, delving into His greatness, His counsel, and His way for us. We should first deepen until we have matured and are able to expand to more usefulness. This will enrich our lives; not only for us, but for those around us and for the glory of Jesus!
Maturity is often considered a trait gained through length of years or experience. That is true, and some things just take time and experience to learn deeply. Yet, there is always opportunity to behave more maturely, whatever our age, background, or understanding of a situation. The Lord can always use us if we’re doing our best to follow Him. Look at Samuel: he was used in outstanding ways because he took on God’s mind and listened to God’s words. Other prime biblical examples are David, Jeremiah, and Daniel. The things they did and the situations they overcame were beyond the norm of maturity for their age. Yet, because they had the Spirit of God, they were capable of being more than their “usual” selves, and so are we.
Bestselling author Joshua Liebman said, “Maturity is achieved when a person postpones immediate pleasures for long-term values.”
This applies to spiritual maturity too. For us who know Jesus, our “long-term value” is in heaven—not here where “moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”2 In other words, our value is based on more than the temporal pleasures and day-to-day concerns of life. Our goals are oriented and centered on living by godly standards and encouraging others that they can do the same. We strive to “postpone,” “push back,” and “put off” immediate, temporal gratification, and instead invest in our true values, Jesus and others.
Part of maturity is to look beyond our circumstances. Even when things are not going the way we’d expect or when we are experiencing hardships, we can continue living in a way that reflects strength of character—and our trust in the Master. We can do our best, and depend on Him for the rest. This shows perseverance, determination, and a positive outlook—traits of a mature man or woman.
Ann Landers, an advice columnist, set a valuable marker when she said, “Be able to stick with a job until it is finished. Be able to bear an injustice without having to get even. Be able to carry money without spending it. Do your duty without being supervised.” If we put those simple principles into action, we will find our level of maturity deepening.
In years past I often questioned if it was worth it to go through the process of spiritual or character maturation. I had my own ideas of maturity, and usually I thought more about my rights than my responsibilities. I think something we face every day of our lives, and a key obstacle to overcome when it comes to maturity, is our human tendency to place ourselves in the “center of the universe” and neglect to think of others and their needs. Some days I wake up and my mind fills with all the things I want to do, or need to do, without considering that every person I pass by has just as many dreams and things to worry about. At these times, I recall a saying that has stuck with me through the years: “Maturity consists of no longer being taken in by oneself.” I personally believe that maturity means knowing there is more to life than ourselves, and then living for that “more.”
In addition to this, we must not give up if results don’t “show” immediately. Just as a barrel of wine takes time to reach its ready state, so must we have patience with the maturing process in our own lives. As we have faith in the Master and take His advice when He says, “Add this,” or “You don’t need so much of that,” or even “Here, let Me,” then we can know everything will be all right.
Maturity cannot be bought or sold, and we don’t immediately become mature because we’re taught or told how. We must learn to live it! When we stick to our tasks till completion, bear injustices and show love in return, do our duty and then beyond, postpone personal pleasure to ease another’s pain, and offer truth to a world largely steeped in falsehood, we are manifesting the qualities of a mature life. We are deepening, and thus widening. We are giving, and thus truly living. We’re “abiding in the vine,” and thus “bearing fruit.”3
So let’s try to be more than we have been; more like Jesus is. Let’s try living more maturely, one day at a time, starting today.
1 English Webster’s Dictionary
2 Matthew 6:19 NKJV
3 John 15:5 NKJV
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2013 by The Family International