By Blair Thompson-White
I don't know about you but when I was a kid I couldn't wait to be an adult. I thought being a kid was kinda restricting. You have to go to school and do what your parents say and you have to rely on others for food and transportation. Adults drove cars and ate what they wanted when they wanted. They could go shopping and buy what they wanted. They could go and do things without asking permission, yes adults had freedom, oh how I looked forward to having the freedom that comes with adulthood.
The reality is that while adulthood has its perks, it isn't all party party party all the time. In fact 90% of being adult is mundane - it's paying bills and going to work and cleaning the house and mowing the lawn.
There is a new word in the dictionary that relates to this. The word is: adulting. It's still so new that spell check does not recognize it but it has officially made it into the Oxford Living Dictionary. Adulting is the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.
I want to take this word adulting and I want to create a new phase with it, the phrase is Christian adulting. Here is the definition I'd like to propose: The practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible follower of Jesus, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.
Most of the time being a follower of Jesus isn't walking on water. No, it's watering the garden. It's paying the water bill on time. It's advocating for clean water and even that work, which may seem like exciting justice work, when you get down to it mainly involves sending emails and calling people and setting up meetings; mundane but necessary tasks. Doing these tasks as Christ would do them, with integrity and honesty and selflessness, that's Christian adulting.
I am reminded that the distinctive mark of the Holy Spirit isn't just in the spectacular. It is also and perhaps more commonly in the ordinary work we do. The Holy Spirit is given to us for Christian adulting. So what are the characteristics of a responsible follower of Jesus? How do those practicing Christian adulting go about doing these mundane but necessary tasks for the kingdom?
In the story in Acts 6, Stephen shows us three characteristics of Christian adulting. The early church is having a few conflicts. One conflict that comes up is that the Greek-speaking widows aren't getting enough in the distribution of food while the Hebrew-speaking widows are getting more than enough. So the disciples realize that this mundane task of waiting on tables for the widows is important. The text says the task is literally to wait on tables. So essentially the disciples realize that they need a good wait staff for the widows to make sure they get the food they want and need; talk about mundane.
But that's not what the disciples do, they aren't just looking for just anybody. They want people filled with the Holy Spirit because this, even this, is holy work. Here are the qualifications they put out there for this task of waiting on tables:
"Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task."
Full of the Spirit? To wait on tables? Full of wisdom? Yes. Absolutely. Because the disciples know this work must be done well. They need Christian adulting, they need people who will accomplish these mundane but necessary tasks in a way characteristic of a responsible follower of Jesus.
And Stephen is one of those chosen for this task. The text says he is full of faith and the Holy Spirit and thus he is called to ministry. Stephen's ministry career begins with waiting on tables and we know the rest of his story. He will become the first martyr of the Christian faith. Martyr means witness, he is the first witness. His life and death is so similar to that of Christ's you can't help but read the story of his life and death and remember Jesus' life and death. So what do the disciples see in Stephen’s life that we can apply to ours to excel at Christian Adulting?
The first characteristic of people who are Christian adulting is they have decided to be disciples of Jesus in order to do what Jesus does and become what Jesus is; by choice and by grace they are learning from Jesus how to live in the kingdom of God.
Stephen didn't just wait on tables, he waited on tables in the way Jesus would; he fed the widows and made sure they had what they needed. He let Jesus' life flow through his even in the most mundane tasks he did, and don't you know those widows experienced grace through him, through the way he took care of the tables with grace, compassion, integrity?
Let's say you are a teacher. As a disciple of Jesus, as his apprentice, you have to constantly be aware of how Jesus would deal with students and fellow teachers and parents, how Jesus would do the tedious tasks of cafeteria duty and grading papers and preparing lesson plans.
You have to let his life flow through yours in everything you do in the context you are in right now, in whatever your roles and responsibilities right now, you have been given the Holy Spirit so that it is possible for you to do everything you do as Jesus would. The question constantly before us is how would Jesus do what I am doing? Or even better: How is Jesus' life flowing through mine in this task, in this relationship, in this moment?
I think sometimes we think our lives are sort of insignificant you know, we compare ourselves to those who are doing mission and aid work in places like Africa or Haiti or who have jobs that seem more service-oriented or we think we're too old or too young or too busy or whatever, you fill in the blank, but the point is we sort of dismiss our current context, our current situation and place in life...we're just waiting tables, you know, what does it really matter?
It matters. The center of focus for the disciple's life is the disciples' life, you are living your life with Jesus right now, you are his apprentice right now, learning from him how to lead your life as if he were you...in your workplace, your family, your neighborhood, this community.
The second characteristic of people who are Christian adulting is they are impeccable with their word.
The words we say both internally to ourselves and outloud to others have power. Those who are Christian adulting know this. They know the power of words and so they choose to speak with wisdom and the Spirit as opposed to speaking with ego and self-interest.
When Steven starts to teach about the kingdom of God. People argue with him but the text says: "they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke." So what does he say to them? What words does the Spirit give him to say? Words of truth and forgiveness. First, he speaks the truth to them and when they refuse to hear and scheme against him and stone him, when they become enraged with him, he doesn't return their anger with words of anger or hate. He asks God to forgive them.
Those who are impeccable with their word use their energy in the direction of truth and forgiveness, truth and love. They do not lie to themselves or others. They know that the way we engage in conversation with others, how we disagree and express our opinion, it is no small thing...those who are Christian adulting know the power of the word, they know the Word of God wants to and needs to speak in them and through them and so they are impeccable with their word.
That word impeccable literally means without sin. Those who are impeccable with their word are without sin in the words they use. They do what they say they are going to do. When they make a promise, they keep it. Watch the promise two police officers make and what they do. This is a great example of Christian adulting: Click Here To Watch.
The third characteristic of people who are Christian adulting is they see the glory.
They see heaven from earth. They see the glory of God. That's what happens to Stephen, he can see beyond the present circumstances to the glory. He can see the hope in the midst of despair. He can see light in the midst of darkness, yes he can see the glory right here, right now.
To see the glory like Stephen you gotta do some Christian adulting.
You give God the glory by doing your everyday ordinary mundane tasks as Jesus would do them.
You give God the glory by letting his life flow through yours in your workplace, your home, your community.
You give God the glory by being impeccable with your word, by thinking about what you say and letting the Spirit speak through words of truth and forgiveness and love.
You give God the glory glory by looking for the light in the darkness and working to usher in more light.
You give God the glory by Christian adulting.
Would you share a story below of someone you know who does “Christian Adulting” well?