As an external description, maturity is the evidence of reaching full natural growth or development. As an internal description, maturity is the emotional and relational capability of living fully and loving deeply while experiencing life on life’s terms. By being able to need well and truthfully, we grow up from the roots of getting our needs met first, into producing fruit as a natural outcome of having our needs met. We see who we are created to be, so we can do what we are created to do.
Concerning maturity as an internal experience and process, a person can reach full growth externally, and still not have matured internally. Even more, a person can be younger in years than others, and the younger person can be more mature because of emotional and relational development. Age is not the most accurate discriminating factor. Internal development is the most accurate discriminating factor when we talk about maturation.
The fullest form of maturation is an older person who has life experience and internal growth that is integrated into their life’s experiences and present behavior of being able to love. That person has the complete package, the scars of years of experience in living and the capacity to keep on generating love, in spite of the scars of living.
That person offers much fruit. They give “backwards” and “forwards.” They offer themselves to those who are headed their way on life’s path in the inevitable aging process. And they offer themselves to those who are near or beyond them along the path of living.
From everything I have witnessed, the internal maturation process starts with the experience of admitting neediness and surrendering that neediness to God, and others who have what we need internally.
These people have faced and felt something inescapable: We are not self-created. Instead, we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable characteristics. We are created to seek life, liberty, and the opportunity to develop into who we are created to become. We came into life as emotional and spiritual creatures in need of relationship with others and God to be able to live fully life on life’s terms.
This admission and surrender experience (a continuous process) opens the door to the internal maturation path. In the epistle of Galatians, Paul assumes that surrender has occurred and keeps occurring. He speaks of the benefits of being on the path of living fully, so we can experience who we are created to be, and do what we are created to do. He writes, “It is for freedom that Christ has liberated us” (Galatians 5:1). He then goes on to speak to the internal growth process and what we receive by giving ourselves over to a life led by the Spirit of God.
The fruit that we can develop through relationship with God in us is beyond rules, beyond being restrained, and thus cannot be stopped. The fruit, which develops from the inside out, is generative, keeps on giving, regardless of age.
Giving our hearts over to God in surrender to neediness, then, grows and refines the following fruit: “. . . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5: 22). Our daily surrender, rather than marking us as weak or childish, sets us on the path of internal maturation and generative offerings. We live fully life on life’s terms.
God does for us. God touches us through our vulnerability and grows our courage in a world that would demand we close ourselves off to growth for survival or self-protection.
The fruit is the expression of maturation in the growth process. Love maintains interest and empathy towards others. Joy comes from having received in grace what one cannot earn. Patience becomes the strength to carry the burden of hope. Kindness increases the capacity to maintain caring in a hard-hearted world. Goodness focuses on being of maximum service, a form of fulfillment. Faithfulness expresses trust that God is always about being true and good. Gentleness grows out of the faith that God is healing, caring for, and growing us. And self-control enables one to exercise restraint, a lack of reactivity, under pressure.
The internal maturation process makes surrender a word far removed from the assumed definition of defeat. Surrender and defeat in this context actually have no similarity. Surrender is an offering, a giving back to God. A person grows amidst life on life’s terms in a world that is craving the fruit of people who are in the internal maturation process.
Chip Dodd, PhD, is a teacher, trainer, author, and counselor, who has been working in the field of recovery and redemption for over 30 years. With his clinical experience, love of storytelling, and passion for living fully, Chip developed a way of seeing and expressing one’s internal experience called the Spiritual Root System™. To read more from Chip, visit his blog, or check out his books.