My living room was full of gorgeous and talented women, brimming with vision and optimism about what lay ahead. I, passionate about the next generation, had opened my heart and home to a small, select group of fierce females, who were selected to be part of a summer internship. They came from all over the country to be part of a three-month, intensive ministry training, and this was day one.
As I looked around the room, I remembered what it felt like to be their age, to wonder the same things, and dream the same dreams—dreams about life and love, purpose and passion. I thought to myself, When I was their age, what did I need to hear? I listened to their stories and arrived at the simple truth I wished someone had told me when I was their age. It would have saved me from embarrassment, prideful falls, humiliation, and the many naive mistakes I made while stepping into leadership roles inside and outside of the church:
There is a difference between women and little girls.
Physically, these differences are obvious—that doesn’t require much discussion. But I’m talking about the maturing of soul, mind, and spirit.
The apostle Paul put it this way: “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)
In Hebrew culture, children become adults at the age of thirteen. However, just because someone legally becomes an adult doesn’t mean they act like an adult. For Latinas, rites of passage happen before a crowd at a quinceañera, when a girl turns fifteen years old. American culture grants grown-up responsibilities to kids on their eighteenth birthdays. But just because we are culturally labeled adults doesn’t mean we act like them.
This can be most evident in our spiritual lives. We may look, and sometimes even act, like mature, devout, grown women of God, but in fact, we’re little girls in our big sister’s lipstick, masquerading as the women we have yet to become.
I gathered the interns around my dining room table and had “The Talk.” No, not that talk—this wasn’t that type of party. But just as any adolescent girl needs a no-nonsense knowledge-drop to get a grip on handling hygiene, hormones, and harnessing her little lady lumps in a properly sized bra, young believers require a bit of motherly advice to guide their spiritual development. (And when I say “motherly,” I more mean “the cool young aunt whose birth was a surprise to your grandparents in their sunset years”).
Are You a Little Girl or a Grown Woman?
We don’t all begin our faith walks at the same point in our lives. We don’t all face the same challenges, and we certainly can’t all expect to have access to the same support systems and opportunities. But as with any growth process, we need guidance from those who have gone before us in order to transition fully into who we’re meant to be. Over the years (with the ever-helpful aid of my 20/20 hindsight) I’ve distilled some of my most useful lessons on adulting into the bullet points below. Some of these I had to learn the hard way, and my hope is that you won’t have to. And since I was raised on Sesame Street (a quintessential part of my growth), they will all start with the letter P. You’re welcome.
In immaturity, we’re focused on praise and promotion, but woman sees the importance of her process. What we learn through our work, and even by the act of simply doing that work, is far more important than any reward, increased status, or affirming words we may receive as a result.
After I finished teaching at The Rock Church in San Diego once, senior pastor Miles MacPherson asked me if I’d ever had a speech coach review my sermons. I thought he was asking because he was so impressed by my awesome wordsmithing and polished prose. When I proudly told him I hadn’t, he asked me if I wanted some feedback. Umm . . . excuse me? I was hurt and embarrassed at my need for correction, especially following what felt like a really solid spin behind the pulpit. But where would that embarrassment get me? What good would a “Great job, Bi” have done when I had so much room to improve? I swallowed my pride and seized the opportunity to learn from one of the best.
Miles’ feedback was brutally honest but incredibly helpful. And while it did make me a bit uncomfortable, I was well aware of how little a person grows when she stays inside her comfort zone. As a grown woman and communicator of the gospel, I knew I needed to receive Miles’ insight as an investment in my maturing process. It made me better at my job, and subsequently, better at my life.
Put your head down and do the work.
Don’t worry about the promotion; focus on the process. Don’t quit the painful process because you are addicted to praise. The process will mature you to focus on the future and build it rather than looking back longingly at an idyllic past.
Immaturity projects entitlement and negativity; grown women produce. Immaturity will cause us to focus on what we lack, but it takes an adult perspective to begin to work with what we have. If we are busy doing that work, we won’t have time to focus on what we don’t have.
Instead of letting struggles get the best of you, go to work and began to produce. If you’ve been given olives, make olive oil. If it’s sour grapes, make wine. When you get lemons, make lemonade. Use what you have to get what you want.
It’s not about what you have or don’t have. It’s about what God can do with whatever you give Him.
Every great leader, boss, preacher, teacher, or mom needs a coach. This person will pour into your life and help you become better. When we invite someone into our life who can provide loving and thoughtful correction, we become better. A word of caution: be intentional about who you invite into your life. If you give access to a person who is jealous or threatened by you, it may cause a weakening in your confidence. Surround yourself with people who are for you, love you, and will be honest with you.
Grown women should view correction as a payment into their development. Little girls will make you pay for correcting them. And dealing with a payback from an immature child is the worst!
A mature woman will declare she has purpose and potential living on the inside of her. She won’t make excuses for who she is (and isn’t).
We can either grow into all that God has called us to be, or we can make excuses for why we’re not growing.
God’s call is always found in our God-given talents and God-inspired passions and burdens for the world. And it requires spiritual maturity to ask ourselves: When I breathe my last breath, will I have optimized those talents? Will I have done my best, throughout my lifetime, to get the highest return on His investment in me?
Purpose exists when our gifts, experiences, and passions come together. We must be women who declare and believe that we were created on purpose and for a purpose.