Sharing Life Experience

To describe the kingdom of God, Jesus teaches in parables. In Sunday’s gospel Jesus focuses on how seeds grow — the future within them. Just a few verses earlier, Jesus explains the seed is the word, his message (Mark 4.14). How does Jesus’ word grow in us?

Every parent knows a child develops, begins to recognize faces, creeps, then crawls, and eventually walks. Our DNA wires us for unfolding development from fetus to full height and insight.

Preschool and kindergarten children take in everything they see, hear, taste, touch. God is magic or a big parent person. By primary age children’s brains develop concrete thinking power. They chain stories together “and then, and then” and in middle school become increasingly industrious learners of the concrete world.

Not until the teen and high school years does the brain develop abstract thinking skills that give us the capacity to interpret bible stories and symbols and explore doctrinal concepts.

As older adolescents, we may begin questioning our faith tradition. Leaving home, college classes, church scandals, a friend or family member’s death may challenge us to sort through what we believe, value, and stand for personally. Doing a faith selfie takes time. Working through who I am, what I will do, and who I love may absorb the 20s and 30s. Individuals tend to “either-or” thinking in these years. Many people stay at this stage of faith and identify with people like themselves.

In later decades of life many become generative Christians, secure enough in their faith and values to listen to others who differ and even be changed by them. They are “both-and” thinkers who live their faith and widen their views by walking with and learning from others. Researchers call this stage of faith agonistic, which expresses the struggle to understand people unlike ourselves.

Some believers as they age or face death become wisdom figures, embodying the word Jesus has planted in them, inspiring and energizing those in their circles.

  • What stage of faith development seems most like your own?