In my teenage years I had issues. I was the eldest of four children and had just turned 19 when I moved out. I moved into the city where I enrolled in a foreign language program to become an interpreter. A couple of years later I joined an internship at a local mission, dropped out of language school and moved into a housing community with other young interns.
A brainchild of a middle aged married couple – she was a catholic and he a protestant – this young mission eventually turned into a formal brother and sisterhood. Sisters wore a habit, brothers wore khakis. Most of the members who weren’t married committed to staying unmarried. We lived in an old cloister-like building; in fact, everything in this faith community was a strong reminder of a Catholic cloister. Yet unlike Catholic practice, married couples with children were also welcomed into the brother- and sisterhood. We followed after the teachings of Martin Luther who set a precedent of clerical marriage. Luther was an ordained priest and married a former nun, thus paving the way for protestant clergy to marry.
I was 21 when I started wearing a habit and continued to live in this close-knit faith community for a decade. Initially this was meant to be for life. However, as the rules tightened and every aspect of my life was under a microscope I became restless. Estranged from family and friends and completely isolated from “the real world” I pulled the plug one day and moved out. Here I was, in my mid-30s with the horizon and experience of a young kid. I had to jump-start into adulthood, get a job, manage my own money, and move into my own apartment. It was wild. I suspect that a person who gets reintegrated into society after spending a decade behind bars has similar feelings of bewilderment.
Growing up is a natural thing, but sometimes there are growth problems. I was definitely stuck for a long time. We all can be stuck in various ways. Mine was probably an extreme case scenario, but the bottom line is, to grow up we need to spread our wings and fly. We have to stop relying on somebody else and become responsible for our own actions. In a way, that’s what spiritual maturity is all about. Children of God grow up to spread their wings. The wind of the Holy Spirit carries us through highs and lows in life. Through it all, we learn how to love, how to deal with pain, how to forgive, and how to be generous. We get to know God on a deeper level.
On the road of experience we can get lost. Looking back to the early chapters of my adulthood I now accept these twelve years of isolation to be part of my history. I don’t agree with the decisions I made, but it has contributed to the person I am today. Meanwhile, I have evolved and I am not done evolving yet!
Moved by God’s Spirit we keep on moving, we keep on growing until the day we die. Who knows what kind of growth potential awaits us on the other side of heaven? On to new horizons I say!