The Sunday morning conversation had found its way, as it frequently does, to questions of inclusion. One person spoke up about full inclusion of gay and lesbian persons as a final hurdle in becoming a society where all are truly equal.
Bruce, a thoughtful (and playful) 81 year old, raised his hand. A retired judge, he spoke slowly and precisely:
“It’s fun to grow up,” he said. “God doesn’t teach us to hate. We do that to ourselves.”
It was a powerful moment. Bruce had pretty much summed up religion (as it ought to be) in five syllables, with some helpful commentary as follow-up.
It’s fun to grow up. We often miss that point, focusing only on the struggles and challenges and the push-and-pull of saying farewell to the old stuff as we try to get our footing with new things. The struggles are there, but Bruce reminded me that “growing up,” even if it’s hard work, can be downright joyful. It may be tough to cross some of those thresholds – taking responsibility, abandoning ego, and opening ourselves up – but once we get there, we never see things the same way.
It’s fun to grow up, I think, because a mature relationship with God is something that we might not expect: it’s playful. Bruce’s insight is a piece of wisdom that remains hidden for many of us. When I called him to ask permission to write about this, he immediately told me that he “didn’t realize just how fun it really was to grow up” until he was in his 70’s.
If growing up can be fun and playful, what happens to us when we refuse to grow, or simply revert to an earlier stage of development?
I remember working at a camp (where we did not get much sleep) and being greeted by a guest as I was clinging desperately to the morning’s first cup of coffee. Channeling an expression of her grandmother and amplifying her Georgia accent to make the phrase come out right, she looked at me and said, “Turkey, you look like you got jerked through a knothole backards!” (“Backards” of course means “backwards” and was very heavily emphasized). The point, I think, was to tell me that I didn’t look so good.
Backwards movement simply lacks joy and (if the turkey is a reasonable metaphor) it’s not so comfortable either. If it’s fun to grow up, to embrace the forward movement that is a part of life, then doing the opposite is decidedly less than fun. The turkey who is being pulled backwards through the knothole is most likely not enjoying himself; worse yet, he is probably finding himself having to fit into places that aren’t quite natural. He is terminally ruffled. This is not fun.
But let’s not be too hard on the turkey. This isn’t about judgment or looking down on the poor guy, because he’s having enough of a hard time as it is. The sad thing is that he’s missing out on the fun.
So why grow up? Well, because we have to, of course, because we’re challenged to, and because there’s that whole maturity and wisdom thing, should we choose to accept it. But I like what Bruce was saying. We grow up because we’ve figured out that there’s joy and playfulness at the other end of this process.
We grow up because it’s fun.