Growing Yourself Up by Jenny Brown
Relationships are the best place to grow
As a Christian, what do we want to be known for? Our love? Our faithfulness? Our integrity? All of those things are closely connected to our ability to be mature in relationships. We want to be more grown up than we were yesterday. That’s certainly the expected progression we see from New Testament writers like Peter: “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit , hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:1-3)
As Christians we want to be known for our maturity. Paul writes to the Ephesian Christians, “but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15) The whole of the Christian life could be described as a great ‘growing up’ project as each saint, in community, by the power of the Holy Spirit working in their lives, turns by degrees to the author and perfecter of their faith. (Hebrews 12:2)
For me personally, if I had to boil it down, it’s the maturity and love of my Christian friend from Youth Group that really shone out and commended the Christian life to me. I met her when I was twelve, a young high schooler just starting out. And as I reflected, at the end of High School as an eighteen year old, on which direction I wanted to go in, I couldn’t help but think of her. She was so different to my other friends. She put others first. She didn’t think about herself all the time. She was hospitable and welcoming. She loved Jesus. She loved her friends. She was positive and happy and knew what she wanted out of life. I wanted what she had!
And I can tell you, she’s still like that! And it has been one of the most shaping and special friendships of my life. This friend introduced me to Jesus. She showed me how a teenager, and then a young adult, and then a married person and then a young mum and now a mum of four can love and serve Jesus and what that might look like. I fully expect for her to show me what that will look like as we age and become older ladies and even Grandmothers, God willing. It should come as no surprise that this friend gave me Jenny’s book for my birthday! With the caveat that of course I was already really mature! She was just softening the blow.
A New Lens For Looking At Life
Reading this book has given me a new lens for looking at life: the maturity lens. What is the most mature thing I can do in this situation? What is happening in this situation that is being driven by someone’s maturity or lack of it? How is my own lack of maturity contributing to this situation?
Reading The Bible In A New Light
I have even found myself reading the Bible in a new light. The maturity of God’s saints in hard situations is so encouraging. The maturity of Joseph with his brothers at the end of Genesis blows me away. The growing up Moses had to do in Exodus, to walk out of the wilderness and go battle the most powerful man on earth in order to save his people. The kind of maturity Jeremiah had to have to choose to stick with a disbelieving, hard-hearted bunch who wouldn’t listen to him. The maturity that Jonah doesn’t have. The maturity that Job’s friends definitely don’t have. The strength of Esther as she works out what to do in a new position of power. The family loyalty and love of Ruth.
The growing up of the disciples in the gospels, Peter’s constant doubts and then Jesus builds the church with him. The transformation of Paul, from a violent enemy of Christianity to missionary to the Gentiles in Acts. These extraordinary stories illustrate that under pressure, people are capable of extraordinary maturity and also immaturity and that we always have a choice.
Self-Management Issues We All Need To Address
Brown writes, “Bowen is unusual in the field of psychiatry in that he described himself as needing to address the same self-management issues as those his patients were learning to deal with. He didn’t think that any human was close to being completely differentiated, and is reported by close colleagues to have said that only on his very best days might he appear to be in the upper to moderate range of emotional maturity.” (p. 5) The honesty of Bowen is very refreshing.
Which brings me to the perfection of Jesus, who on on his worst day was able to follow his father perfectly. The one person in all of history who never made a false move or said the wrong thing. Perfect, astounding, sacrificial humility and love displayed at every turn.
Never Stop Growing Yourself Up
If I had to sum up Brown’s book in one sentence it would be that growing yourself up doesn’t end while you’re alive. A mature person never stops working on their maturity, no matter if they’re eighteen or eighty. Brown makes so many helpful observations about life that connect perfectly with the theology we know from the Bible that you never reach perfect maturity this side of heaven but we can, and are expected, to make progress.
The irony of having a big meltdown at my family (for being noisy, demanding, wanting to tell me a joke, or ask for a snack) while trying to write these reviews on a book that is all about developing greater emotional maturity is not lost on me. My family know my baseline maturity is much lower than you might think! I’m thankful for grace. I’m thankful that his mercies are new each morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). And I’m thankful for this wonderful book that brings plenty of wise psychology to the area of human relating. I pray for my own family system to function more healthily. I know from reading this book that the power of one thoughtful, intentional person working on their own maturity can make a big difference.
To help us think big, I want to finish with the story of Os Guinness’ great-great-grandmother, Jane Lucretia D'Esterre who suffered great tragedy in her life. (https://www.worldcat.org/wcpa/servlet/DCARead?standardNo=0802433227&standardNoType=1&excerpt=true)
Her husband died young, killed in a duel, leaving her penniless, with two babies to care for and no family support. As she stood on the bank of a deep lake in Scotland in 1815 she considered ending it all but instead, became a Christian. She became known for praying for her family down to the 12th generation. From that moment of despair, on the bank of that lake, when Jane could only think of her own tragic circumstances, this woman grew up to have a vision that included praying for 12 generations of her descendants. Have you ever thought about praying for your great-great-great grandchildren? I heard Os speak about his great-great-grandmother, Jane, at last year’s Sydney Prayer Breakfast where he told this story and said, “There’s hardly a person in my family tree who wasn’t a Christian.” Grace is written over their lives through the prayers of that mature Grandmother. What a ripple effect Jane had on generations of descendants through choosing maturity in that moment of crisis, and in lifting her eyes to pray for family members that she would never meet in this life. What a blessing she was to her family tree.
Thank you for Jenny Brown’s book, Growing Yourself Up.
Thank you for the rich thinking it has supplied on the topic of maturity.
We are sorry for the areas in which we fail at this.
Please help us to make real attempts to behave more maturely in the laboratory of our lives.
May we continue to grow and bare fruit for your Kingdom.
In Jesus’ Name,
Meet Katie Stringer
Katie loves books, baking and beaches. She leads a Bible Study with young mums at her local Anglican church in the inner west community of Sydney. She also teaches the Bible at two local High schools and enjoys hearing what teenagers think about Jesus. Please pray for Katie as she starts studying at Moore College this year.