“Life has served me as it serves everyone, sometimes well and sometimes ill, but I have been grateful for the gift of it, for the love that began it and the other loves with which I have been so richly endowed,” -Morris West
In Sacred Fire: A Vision for a Deeper Human and Christian Maturity, Ronald Rolheiser summarizes the marks of Christian maturity/discipleship with Ten Commandments for Mature Living. Let me share the ten and give a line or two for context:
1. Live in gratitude and thank your Creator by enjoying your life.
Life is a gift, salvation is a gift, and God loves to give good gifts to his children. Thankfulness and gratitude are the path of holiness.
And, the most loving people you know, are the most thankful. Love finds its roots in gratitude.
Mature people enjoy their lives.
2. Be willing to carry more and more of life’s complexities with empathy.
Nothing in life is black and white, including our own hearts. The world is complex, and our hearts are sick, who can understand it?
A mature person can watch the confusion, evil, and nonsense around them, and engage with empathy. Knowing the world isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. Knowing there are no perfect people and everyone’s in process.
This also includes accepting our seemingly normal and small lives. If we are always waiting for someone or a new situation to fix us, and give us the life we're supposed to live, bitterness is right around the corner.
3. Transform jealousy, anger, bitterness, and hatred rather than give them back in kind.
Whatever emotional pain we carry it will retransmit on God and others. If someone hates you, you will hate them back. If you’re bitter, you won’t be gracious and loving with others.
All of us hurt, and will be hurt by others. The question becomes how we’ll respond to the hurts and pains?
4. Let suffering soften your heart rather than harden your soul.
Suffering is the path of a compassionate and supple soul. In suffering we are being refined by fire to become more hopeful, faithful, patient, kind, and compassionate. Suffering is never wasted in God’s economy.
But, many reject any kind of suffering, and see it having no place. That’s when hardness sets in. Depth comes through suffering.
5. Forgive—those who hurt you, your own sins, the unfairness of your life, and God for not rescuing you.
Lack of forgiveness is cancer to the soul. Many people walk around with a false piety while they can’t forgive others who have wronged them, can’t forgive their lot in life, and even can’t forgive God for all the above.
If we understand grace, and understand the forgiveness God extends to us, then we must keep short accounts with God and others.
6. Bless more and curse less!
Speak words of blessing to others, especially children. Blessing is: great job, I love you, I’m proud of you, so glad you’re my friend or son. Cursing: you do nothing right. I hate you. You’re a jerk.
“When we act petty, we get to feel petty. When we act like God, we get to feel like God — and God is never depressed,” (page 6).
7. Live in a more radical sobriety.
Radical sobriety is about living in the light, telling the truth, and living in wide open spaces. No one is perfect, the cross has outed everyone, so hiding and pretending is the path of destruction. Honesty and openness with our sins and addiction is the path of healing and maturity.
Living in the light doesn’t mean you have a happy-clappy glow around you. Living in the light is about a posture of honesty and open hands. Where there’s nothing to hide even when it’s hard to talk about it.
8. Pray, affectively, and liturgically.
Pray from the heart to God, openly and honestly, and in private. And pray with others in a community. We are too weak and blind to not live in constant prayer.
Seeking maturity without a prayer life is like trying to start a fire without matches.
9. Be wide in your embrace.
This one is about accepting the Otherness of people. Most immature people live with skepticism and fear of others who don’t think, believe, live, or have the same ideology as them. Fundamentalism is the root of paranoia. Fundamentalism forgets the Imago Dei of all humans.
If we have a solid identity rooted in Christ, we can embrace, and love others different from us on many levels.
10. Stand where you are supposed to be standing, and let God provide the rest.
Be committed and faithful to your place, space, and time. Immature people are always looking for the next thing, next community, and whatever is bigger and better. They can’t seem to love and minster to the people right in front of them.
Be faithful with the job you've been called. Commit to your spouse, kid’s, church community, neighbors, and other civic duties in the here and now. Stop looking for something elsewhere.
God will provide what you need when you’re faithful with the little things.
Life is short and fragile. No one is guaranteed tomorrow.
How could these ten commandments radically alter how we lived each day?
(Source: Sacred Fire, pages 245-273)