On a Sunday before Christmas, our pastor was reflecting on the importance of Jesus as Immanuel—“God with us”—for humankind. By becoming human, God entered into the messiness and beauty of this world. In his incarnation, Jesus experienced the reality of life. This means that he went through most of the experiences of the human life cycle just as we do.
Jesus experienced childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. He probably dealt with the death of the one who was his earthly father and cared for his mother as she grew older. He found both a livelihood and a vocation, and then he embraced another calling at midlife. He was faced with and experienced the reality of death. In doing all of these things, he affirmed the importance of the stages of the human life cycle, raising them above being mundane, ordinary experiences.
By implication, we are encouraged to value these stages of human experience and learn more about them. Although my training is as an historian and a minister of the Gospel, I have always been drawn to the study of human development and its psychological, social, and moral implications. My Doctor of Ministry project was based on understanding the faith and psychosocial development of young adults. Every stage of life carries its own challenges—physical, emotional, and spiritual. Those of us who work with people should be aware of the varied needs of those with whom we minister at each stage of life.
God established the cycle in the beginning and Jesus lived it. Through our experiences as children, youth, and adults, we can learn more about ourselves and about our need for a relationship with God and God’s people. If we fail to do so, we cannot become the people that God has called us to be.