heroic "adults"

I think I’ve distilled a little more about our glorification of the “adult,” productive part of life. It starts early, that seems clear. Partly because children have a distorted view of their parents’ capabilities. It seems to them as if their parents are all-knowing and all-powerful, and that’s what they expect of adults. And they yearn to have that kind of power themselves. By the time they are in their twenties, people usually don’t see their parents as all-powerful, but this is often because they are flush with their own growing capabilities and think they can correct the failings of the generation before them.

Again, it’s a mistaken view of how capable or powerful adults can be. When we’re kids we admire and long for it, as young adults it seems to be coming to fulfillment, and it’s not until maybe middle age that our limitations become undeniable. Relative to children and the elderly, yes, people in the “prime” of their lives are more capable. But we still can’t solve all the problems (sometimes it seems like we can solve very few of them). And we can’t just do anything we dream, anywhere we dream of doing it. There’s lots of frustration and burnout in trying, and everyone experiences lots of failures in life. But we don’t usually see clearly how limited we are until quite a way down life’s road.

And even then, there’s reasons to keep up the illusion of heroic “adults.” The next generation is now looking up to us with admiring eyes. And people are looking for role models to inspire them. I suspect the inspiring picture presented of most role models isn’t quite the whole truth, but it’s for a good cause, right? And society as a whole promotes the idea of capable human beings, able to overcome our problems, especially if people work together. It helps people to hope, right?

The big drawback is that the hope is directed towards a mistaken image, rather than the truth. So there’s confusion and frustration and guilt when we don’t become the heroic adults we believed we would be (or should be). And when many of the problems of our lives persist despite all our efforts.

Then there’s the spiritual side of this. The image of capable, heroic adults focuses our hope and trust on them (us). It doesn’t help us direct our hope towards God and encourage dependence on him. It’s not surprising, then, that Jesus wasn’t like the usual image of a capable hero. And that he said we must turn and become like children to enter the kingdom of God.

If we expected to be “like children” our whole lives, not heroic or even “in charge” but continually looking for guidance and help our whole lives, then we’d be a lot closer to the truth and closer to God. And there would be  more of a continuity in our lives. Not a pre-life and post-life tacked on to our prime “adult” years, but practicing the same dependence the whole way. Learning to turn that dependence towards God, and to never turn away.