In the following nine blog posts, we will attempt to articulate “nine elements of a leadership reproduction culture.” For more explanation, see our first post here. Feedback and questions are more than welcome!
On the road to fruitfulness in its mission, Epic is about… Emotional Maturity & Holistic Transformation
By Leila Wong
A few years ago I was asked the question, “If you could describe your present life as a season, what would it be?” I was in the midst of a difficult time in my life, and I pictured myself as a barren tree in the midst of a cold, harsh and snow-filled winter. Appearing lifeless, the tree looked and felt dead. However, growth was taking place deep below the surface, invisible to the naked eye. I was learning to be honest, and about what it meant to have integrity of heart, as I walked through the pain and loss in my life. God was teaching me to bring all of myself, including the dark and broken parts that His grace was surfacing, into my life and leadership.
Maturity is the growth and development of a deepening and abiding life of love and faith in Christ, that happens over time. Holistically, it is about becoming who God created us to be; it is the development of all our capacities as a child of God — in our unique identity, as a valued soul created in the image of God. It is not a self-focused process of trying to obtain personal happiness and fulfillment out of our own efforts or “pop psychology.” It is the transformational process of where what we believe of God in our minds becomes what we truly believe and experience in our deepest of hearts. It is not merely “doing” the Christian life, it is “being” in Him as we live out our life as children of God, so that our doing flows from a heart of love.
Discussions about emotional maturity often generate a variety of reactions, and some may be tempted to avoid the topic altogether. Emotions, especially honest and authentic ones such as grief and sadness, make a lot of people uncomfortable and they surface things in one’s heart, as one is forced to choose how to respond. Emotional vulnerability in our relationships can surface our own anxiety, and test our capacity to engage human pain when we encounter it in others.
Spiritual maturity, which includes emotional maturity, is not stoicism, or the ability to be highly logical or objective in decision making. Highly emotional people can be quite stable and mature. Some, because of their family backgrounds, cultural heritage, or faith traditions, can view emotions as a sign of weakness or as deeply unspiritual due to a false dichotomy between the secular and the sacred. But God wants our development and transformation to be more than cognitive. Our development and spiritual transformation are to touch every area of our lives! And our character and inner emotional framework are vital to both our present and future relationships, and ministry.
Those of us who hold positions of influence, with some measure of power to impact our environments must remember that we don’t just set culture by what we do — but culture is shaped in large part by who we are! It’s out of our own maturity, security, and emotional capacity that we explicitly or implicitly determine what topics are open for discussion and which ones will be silenced. We must recognize that spiritual reproduction is happening, whether we are trying to accomplish it or not, as we model (even unconsciously) and live out our leadership. We must be aware of the influence and impact of our own maturity and capacities, on those we lead.
Anyone can have a self-perception of growth and maturity, but it is in the context of relationship that our maturity and growth are tested and developed, produced and witnessed, and ultimately experienced. Grace and truth are necessary for growth: the deep and unconditional grace of God available to us through Christ, and the truth of Christ and God’s word. They also involve our experience of grace in authentic and connected relationships, as well as an honest awareness of the reality of who we are in our strengths and limitations, virtues as well as vices, and who God and others are. And just as a child takes time to learn and grow into adulthood, we too need the time and space to mature, in order to become all that God intended and made us to be, so that our hearts might be wholly His.
- How did your family context impact your view of emotions growing up?
- How have your church or ministry contexts impacted your view of emotional maturity, and how important (or not) it is?
- What questions are provoked by the post above? What parts might bring you to question your current view of emotional maturity?
- The post above states that “spiritual reproduction is happening, whether we are trying to accomplish it or not.” When you look at your team or ministry environment, how do you think your own emotional maturity (for better or for worse) has impacted or shaped the culture? How might that have influenced the leadership and mission of your team or ministry environment?