He’s usually pretty easy to pick out in a crowded room. Often he is wearing complicated jeans and pontificating about what he would do if only he were given the chance. He can’t commit to a job, a relationship, or even an event just in case something better comes along. He is often only present to any of the above three scenarios long enough to make sure there are enough photos to make an interesting Instagram feed. At a party, he can’t commit to the conversation that he is currently in, so you will probably see him scanning the room for a better conversation or group to be seen with. Why does he act like this, you ask? He is addicted to the idea of potential. Have you met him? Or worse, have you tried to date him?
My friends and I have fondly named the males in this category the ‘man/boy.’ I am aware that there is an equally female version, a ‘lady/child’ who can’t quite move beyond some of life’s important developmental stages. Many people refer to folks like this as those suffering from the ‘Peter Pan syndrome,’ and they can be found in almost any region; but for some reason I find myself meeting more and more of them here in Southern California. And sadly, I have noticed a large percentage of them consider themselves Christians. Many of them are in my age bracket. What’s worse is that I may even be guilty of being one of them from time to time. It is in these moments that I have to remind myself that there is a difference between being child-like and childish. I want to keep my eager expectation that something is always around the corner, but with an equal measure of understanding that there is something beautiful at settling where you are. Some days I am successful and sometimes my inner lady-child comes out.
There is something terrifying in making commitments and having to say no to one option in order to pursue another. I find myself paralyzed in making decisions. I consider what I think God is asking me to do, yet I struggle in making a big commitment or leaving a not so great situation because I am afraid of what’s next. There is a certain theology that I am prescribing to when I insist on staying stuck. I am revealing my deep belief that God isn’t for me and that there couldn’t possibly be anything better about moving forward with what is in front of me.
Recently at a wine bar, a friend and I were talking about this very phenomenon. The young woman serving us gave me some incredible insight. She said she sees these men and women day in and day out at the wine bar. They are usually in their 40’s to 50’s and don’t seem to be okay with what stage of life they are in. They frequently have a younger date with them and they don’t seem to be happy or secure. To the outsider, their demeanor doesn’t make sense: this is an expensive place to live in one of the most beautiful areas of the country, so why would these people be so stunted and insecure? Her answer blew my mind. She said, “I think there are so many people here like this because there is no winter.” Now at first that seems like a simplistic and maybe even irrational answer, but let’s play with the idea for a minute. We owe that to the hairdresser, bartender, therapist and priest. We owe it to them to hear their theories on humanity since they hear and see everything!
So could the lack of winter stunt people?
If you think about the people we respect most, they are often the ones who have gone through the most in life. They have lived through the winter of life and emerged matured and thoughtful. The wise bartender also shared that there is a rhythm to the seasons that reminds us that we are not immortal. We know the years are passing and we mark that by the changing of the seasons. Without this it can seem as though life goes on and on. Everything seems possible when every day is a summer day, and in a weird way, that can make us paralyzed in possibility. So what am I choosing to do? A wise friend of mine who happens to be an amazing life coach, Bradley Grinnen, always reminds me to choose to believe that God is for me and that the best is yet to be. So don’t stay stuck. Enjoy where you are and look forward to aging and getting to embrace the winters and what comes out of them. True maturity comes from the knowledge that life has a rhythm and a movement. We all need a winter to remind us of the spring and the hope of summer.