As one who has explored the hallways of the American high school educational system and has taken great care to study the teenage species, I’ve observed many different types, but the most categorically defined ones are the dating couples, which can be broken down into three types, as their behavior is characteristic of the longevity of their relationship.
The first type of couple is the newly formed to six-month couple, which is the most easily spotted of the three. With this twosome, the couple tends to be easily discovered fully connected to one another, longingly staring into each other’s eyes, which is often punctuated with a lot of family-friendly-ish groping and deep kissing. This type is not aware of the world around them, specifically unaware of the hordes of people that are fully grossed out by this type of behavior.
The second type is the six-month to year couple, which is defined by the close proximity of the two species to one another, and is observed to have a tremendous need for constant hand-holding. Occasionally, the amorousness is necessitated with semi-long eye connection, although, unlike the first type, this couple can be easily distracted by friends and onlookers, especially when the male species’ best friends or teammates have an offer of something better.
The third type of couple is the year-plus couple, a type which is not easily spotted in the wild because of 1) the high extinction rate of such couples and 2) the severe lack of physical proximity and public displays of affection, except for the hard to observe quick lip-peck given as the class bells ring.
Although humorous, there is truth to these observations, especially as these relationships are examples of the often changing and sometimes maturing habits of these couples. In short, as time goes on, the behaviors towards one another change and grow. As many who are in long term relationships can attest to, in the beginning, there is a lot of excitement and “puppy-love,” where both members physically can’t get enough of one another. Then, as the relationship develops and deepens, the physical nature of it cools and intimacy is achieved not always through physical means but through intellectual and emotional means, hence why young couples make-out in public whereas older couples are content to sit and enjoy one another’s company.
The same can be said of our faith. When I was a younger, less-mature Christian, church was a full body workout. Praise singing at the top of my lungs, tears, falling on my face in prayer: it was all very emotional stuff. Yet, as I matured in my faith, I’ve found that I prefer a more introverted, quieter, intellectual approach with God. That’s not to say that I don’t’ feel the occasional flutter of excitement when I feel His presence; it’s just that my faith has deepened and I now practice differently, because it ran its natural course that way in my journey. In fact, CS Lewis often spoke of his matured faith as less emotional and more cerebral, where his growth was a natural outcome of spiritual practice, not a decisive one. If we exercise our faith enough, we observe natural growth and change.
So, does this mean that extroverted, excited Christians are immature? Not so. What I’m suggesting is that if we are growing in our faith and maturing in our relationship with Him, then there should be a noticeable progression in our behaviors. Ephesians 4.15 reveals this maturing in our faith: “But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head.” The process of growing in Him and maturing in our faith is a natural result of our spending time in His presence, as we more intimately develop our faith in Him.
Like the couples in the hallways, our understanding and ways of intimacy grow in an observable direction the deeper the involvement. If we look at our faith and practices and notice that they are the same today as they were in the very beginning, then the evidence suggests that we are not growing and maturing but instead have become stagnant and stunted. Faith maturity is the natural outcome to involvement. We might know what we want our faith and practices to look like, but we need to work to get there. Older couples didn’t achieve deep intimacy right away: it took work, dedication, and exploration. So, if you find yourself static and dormant in your faith, maybe a greater involvement or commitment is what is needed. Set yourself on Him, and growth will come naturally. Like in any relationship, your behaviors and practices will develop naturally and deepen in meaning only through getting to know Him more. Then, you will see a noticeable change and evolution to your faith practices, a sure sign of deeper intimacy and spiritual maturity. He longs to be closer to you, so commit yourself to a deeper relationship with Him. Amen.