Taking a family outing compared to trip by yourself might  be comparable to the difference between spiritual growth as an individual and as a family.

A trip where you’re responsible for only yourself is easier to prepare and plan for, just as focusing on your own growth and development is less complicated than having to consider the needs of all the members of the family.

Even just preparing to head out for any activity is immensely complicated with your family in tow. If you have multiple kids, questions that might run through your mind might include:

“How many changes of kids’ clothes will I need?”

“Should the kids bring their own bags or no?”

“Vests or jackets?”

“Is he old enough that he won’t need an extra pair of underwear?”

“Will this snack be enough to keep them quiet on the ride over?”

“Three diapers or four?”

“Should I bring a carrier or a stroller or both?”

“Will the stroller fit in a coin locker if I don’t need it?”

“Will she sit in the stroller?”

“Throw up bags?”

“Stickers? Crayons?”

…along with a million other considerations.

Whereas heading out the door by yourself might be more along the lines of:

“Phone? Wallet? Keys?”

From Dependence to Independence

Despite these and many other complications, there is something to be said about the messiness and discomfort of having to think about more than one’s self. And perhaps this speaks to God’s design.

We all start out as babies, completely dependent on those around us. Our choices are, at first, not our own as our parents make them for us and may or may not give us varying levels of independence as we grow. But no matter how we are raised, we eventually go through a process through which we must become independent, autonomous adults.

Just as our bodies need to go through a period of maturation and growth in order to create human life, our spirits need to do the same. Much of this process of maturation can happen on the individual level but, at a certain point, our spiritual growth and development hinges on our ability to go on to a higher and deeper levels wherein we need to begin to consider ourselves as part of a bigger whole.

Becoming Part of a Bigger Whole

When we become part of a couple, we then come to reflect God’s divine image in the sacred union of a man and woman. As a couple, we need to consider the needs and desires of the other person. As parents, we need to consider the growth, education and development of our children, one another and the family as a whole. Later, as adult children, we begin to need to consider the needs of our elderly parents.

It is in the critical period of youth where we begin to make all the choices and habits that then sets the trajectory for our whole lives. This is the period where we are no longer tied to our mother’s “apron strings” and begin to make the decisions that will determine who we will become in life. It is at this juncture that, if we’re able to have a clear purpose and direction, we can make the choices that allow us to fulfill our God-given potential, to have fulfilling and meaningful relationships at home and at work.

Preparing for the Next Stage

All this starts from knowing both where we come from and where we want to go!

If — even in the period of our flourishing independence — we clearly know our identity as sons and daughters of God and His purpose for us, it makes it so much easier. Put simply, it cuts away the confusion and fumbling that is often associated with adolescence. Instead of searching for meaning and purpose, we can direct our energies into positive pursuits towards fulfilling our God-given potential. We can then also focus on how and in what ways we would enter back into a web of interdependence, in preparation for building our own families in the future.

Knowing and understanding the importance of these natural life stages as being part of God’s grand plan for our personal, spiritual growth and development is essential to guide us towards good choices and habits in our lives. And how lovely is it that the process of our growth is in one that can also bring us so much satisfaction and delight?

So, whatever stage you might be in – how are you growing? What would you like to work on?