It's my birthday today. And it started off right, with a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" by the women around the breakfast table this morning. I came out of the kitchen with pink rubber gloves on (from washing dishes) and bowed and then they laughed because I blushed. I'm glad I can still enjoy moments like this here.

I also thought this might be a good time to contemplate maturity. I've been talking so much about the 12-step program and its spirituality in glowing terms, but I should also mention that I have noticed aspects that might become a problem as people pursue greater spiritual maturity. I like that 12-step spirituality is meant to apply to a person's continuing life, not just when they are initially trying to kick their addiction. But there are a few things in the teaching that seem to me to be ultimately limiting to spiritual growth if they are not set aside.

The first is their reluctance to talk much about the nature or character of God. This is understandable. They don't want to get sidetracked by theological arguments, and that makes sense for the initial stages. It also makes sense for the preservation and unity of the organization. But if we're really interested in knowing God and maturing spiritually, then we will need to come to a more accurate picture of God and of his intentions for human beings. The 12-step spirituality does offer the insight that God requires us to surrender completely and trust him absolutely. And also that God is loving and wants to heal us. Those are crucial truths. But Jesus revealed much more than this about God and if we want to follow him closely we will have to learn to know God better as well, and be willing to tell what we know.

The second difference I see is in the 12-step reluctance to be controversial or offensive. Again, I see why they chose this path: to keep the orgainization from fracturing or clashing with other powers in the world that could mean its end. But it's impossible to follow Jesus very far without being offensive or challenging the powers of the world. So if people want to truly follow God's will and abandon themselves to following the Truth (Jesus), then they will have to be willing to be offensive and challenging and come under fire for it. Jesus did, and he promised the same for his followers.

The third thing I noticed was that there is a lot of focus on "the program" in 12-step groups. I can see how that is helpful initially, and I am glad for the practical step-by-step advice that the 12-step program offers. But if we are going to completely depend on God, we can't be depending on "the program" too. And we don't get a program from Jesus. We get an introduction to a person. God. And a demonstration of what a perfect relationship with God looks like. This is what we will need to develop as we mature spiritually, leaving all programs behind.