By Michael Gallup
What does it mean to grow up? I often ask myself this question. As I probe my heart and mind, to this one word I keep returning: responsibility. As a child I had little responsibility outside of a few chores that I always undertook begrudgingly. Then, if I didn’t finish unloading the dishwasher, the worse consequence would be a spanking; now, I don’t have anything of which to eat off.
When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to grow up because I could do whatever I wanted. Little did I realize the freedom I experienced as a kid would never be matched again. This wasn’t a freedom that allowed everything, but a freedom that because I was my parent’s responsibility, I had no need to worry and could simply have fun. While I was limited in the available actions, I was limitless in freedom of spirit. Now that I am experimenting with this whole grown-up thing, I realize that while I have limitless options, my responsibilities limit me. I cannot stay up all night because I have to go to work in the morning. I cannot eat lobster everyday because I have to pay rent at the end of the month.
Being a grown-up is not quite what I imagined.
Responsibilities are great things, they give us passion, purpose, and direction. But they can also deliver worry and stress. All my life my actions only seemingly affected me, but now there are several people at least partially dependent upon me keeping it together and to be honest, I’m not so sure I’m capable.
And yet, I find the courage to get out of bed each day and at least attempt to be productive, to put on a happy face that betrays the heavy-laden condition of my soul. I fear less that I will fail as that I will be found out. And with each day a new role or task or worry or fear adds to the mountain upon my shoulders. How can I hold it all, how can I, of all people, be that strong.
What being a grown-up has taught me is that it is about responsibility but not just my own. I share my load with you and you share yours with me. Each of us was meant to carry each other. And above all, I believe, God is there, not to heap more on us, things like shame and guilt, but to carry our burdens. This is perhaps the hardest thing to not only believe but to live. Somehow I make it up in my mind that I have to be perfect, not let God down. But I am reminded that I do not hold Him up but that He holds me up.
Jesus taught His disciples to pray as such: “Father, Reveal who you are. Set the world right. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.” This is not a prayer that assumes much at all on behalf of the one praying. We see a simple series of commands, not flowery requests but demands. We go bold before the maker of all things and demand that He make this world right, that He feed us, forgive us and protect us. We will settle for nothing less.
Core to this is that we need Him at every level especially the most basic. Our lives as grown-ups are not about making sure we take care of our responsibilities, but rather coming to a point where we not only know but live by the truth that we are utterly incapable. It is in this moment of emptiness that we are filled. It is in this confession that we find strength. When we release our responsibilities to the only one capable of shouldering them, we finally have that same freedom we knew as children, to be free in our souls. And it is in this freedom that we can truly live, that we can truly shoulder the days ahead.