Arrested Development

by Joanie Butman


Whatever progress I thought I made on VIP Day evaporated quickly by my mentioning my daughter’s teenage years in last week’s post. Note to self: blogging about your children = embarrassing mom. As long as I’ve been demoted to my former role, I might as well share our text exchange Sunday morning (with her permission this time).

“Nice blog throwing me under the bus there! You make it sound like I was a devil teenager!”

“You were, but so are most people. I was the worst. I still cringe when I think of some of the things I said and did to nana. That’s why it’s (our relationship) so much fun for me now. Loved you through it all.”

The reason I bring it up is not to further embarrass my daughter, but to illustrate somewhat imperfectly how God views us. When I think of my children, it isn’t the adolescent angst I remember. It’s the joy they’ve brought into my life. And so it is with God – the loving Father of perpetual teenagers. Ever since Eve’s first date with the devil, God’s been dealing with snarky, lazy, obstinate, rebellious children who think they know more than Him, and are determined to do things their own way. In fact, He’s left us a lengthy book of examples that could save us a lot of pain if only we’d choose to learn from it.

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Looking back over my life, it’s obvious I’ve been stuck in spiritual adolescence for a good portion of it. I was tempted to say most of it, but truth be told, the majority was spent as a spiritual toddler, waddling through on baby steps of grace. Once I finally reached spiritual adolescence, I wrestled with the same angsts as all teenagers. I got stuck straddling the abyss between wanting to be an adult but still acting like a child.


How many times did I cry out to Him, “You’re ruining my life!?” God doesn’t ruin people’s lives any more than I ruined my daughter’s. We – and life in general - do a pretty good job of it without His help. Sometimes it’s exactly not allowing His input that leads to some form of ruination. I had no distinctions in high school, but had there been a category for most likely to die as a consequence of her own stupidity, I’d be the uncontested favorite.

Like I mentioned to my daughter, I still cringe when I think of my teenage years – and well beyond. How I treated my mom was bad enough. Spiritually, it’s even worse when I think of how I treated my Heavenly Father during my extended adolescence. However, thanks to His grace, I can now look back without shame and am in awe that:

  1. I’m still alive
  2. I’ve come so far.
  3. I’m forgiven.


Even when I felt farthest from God (often by choice), His loving presence saved me from myself. More often than not, God’s handiwork is revealed in hindsight, and it’s an unfolding love story in the making. It might take years before you recognize that your worst nightmare was actually a blessing in many ways – sometimes even a saving grace. Our life experiences are building blocks with which we develop spiritual dexterity. Through them we acquire knowledge of God’s character and sovereignty, which builds trust, faith and intimacy. Choosing to remember our past is vital to our future. It defines who we are and whose we are in addition to where we are and how we got there.


My daughter needn’t be embarrassed when reminded of her teenage years because they are a testimony to her growth. An integral part of my journey to spiritual maturity has been to choose to embrace my ongoing imperfections and past mistakes. Only then am I able to experience and appreciate the depth of Christ’s love and sacrifice on my behalf. The concept of grace can be taught, but it’s true meaning can only be appreciated when experienced. Moving the gospel message from my head to my heart is as close to spiritual maturity as I can hope to achieve in this world. And to do that I have to continually choose to acknowledge just what a devil teenager I was and still am. If throwing myself under the bus helps shine God’s grace into a darkened world, I’m happy to take one for the team.

I’ll leave you with Tim Keller’s succinct gospel summation to ponder this week:


“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

Now there’s a truth I can choose to embrace wholeheartedly. It’s a hug from Heaven letting us know that “God loves us just the way we are, but he also loves us too much to leave us that way.”