You make better decisions? You refrain from going the extra mile in the most recent dodgeball tournament by leaving your uniform at home? You resist the urge to ding dong ditch your neighbors with the really LOUD and early rising dogs?
I'm not really sure what gives us the maturity badge but I do know some signs of it that have showed up in my life and ministry. They're good indicators that I've grown a lot and that I'm rising to another level of godly leadership.
1) Less Knee-Jerk (or less jerk in general)
There have been moments when I've sat in meetings, overheard a conversation, absorbed a decision made by someone else, and made a knee-jerk judgement. Following the judgement usually came a quick draw action on my part that lacked tact, discernment, and spiritual wisdom. It's been in the recent years of my ministry where I've seen myself observe for longer, ask better questions, check my facts, probe a little before making a judgment. Usually, I find the answers I need before I do something stupid. We all know that stupidity gives us major immaturity points right?!
2) More Sleep and Less Sleep
I used to lose sleep over things like the lights not working, volunteers not showing…you know, all of the “important” stuff. I know that I'm growing up and moving inward and closer to the heart of God when those things don't keep me up at night anymore. I'm able to rest in the knowledge of God's work and power to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine. Because it's in His power that we do things in the first place. I can sleep at night–until God breaks my heart for something that really matters like teenagers who are far from God or far from knowing how truly beloved they are…that's when I'm losing sleep again. But losing sleep because we have a great purpose to fulfill is true spiritual maturity as our priorities align with the will of God.
3) Competition Wanes
There's a natural competitor in me. Playing volleyball used to be my outlet for this edge of mine. When ministry became my life over organized sports, I brought some of the attitude in with me. Wrong! There's no place for it in ministry. (Ok, maybe there's a very small corner for it somewhere between angry birds and 30 Hour Famine Fundraising) Maturity comes when we seek to do things not for our own glory but for the glory of the Father full of grace and truth. When we start to become less, we know we're growing in maturity.
4) Job Description Fades
We'll always have specific responsibilities in ministry–areas of focus–and some things that only we can do. At the same time, it's easy to feel like certain jobs aren't our jobs because we don't get paid to do them. Early in ministry I'd mentally weigh what everyone else was doing in terms of time, investment, and inconvenience. “It's not fair” can sneak into the heart vocabulary and take up permanent bitter root residence if we let it. Maturity is visible when we aren't completely defined by our job description–it's more of a rudder guiding our ministry. When other things that fall outside of our roles, we help, if we can, if it's right. We are able to decide with wisdom, cheer, and zeal when it's time to do whatever it takes–helping the body as God gives us opportunities. We're mature when different areas of leadership become an invitation to serve.
5) No More Homework
I'm still guilty of bringing stresses from ministry home with me. How can you not? Our jobs center on hurting people, on problems needing to be solved, on serving others. It seems like I can always be doing SOMETHING. Wouldn't that be a mature thing to do–to utilize every minute to responding to the Body of Christ and to the context of your ministry? The opposite it true. While this is a valiant goal and the motives behind this way of life are pure. We are immature to think that God isn't able to do God's work without us for two hours a night while you read a book to your children, kiss your husband, or spend an evening with grandparents or friends. Mature ministers don't neglect the life they've been given, not allowing any area to become empty and void of meaning.
I still like to sing in my car like a 7th grade girl at boy band concert and I like to take chocolates from other peoples desks (not so mature) but I'm seeing some signs of maturity…seeing growth in some areas that will really make a difference in the ministry that God has called us to. So how mature are you?