In going back for further reflections on emerging adulthood, I think that we need to start with a question: What does it mean to be an adult? Is it to simply to have one more birthday, to turn eighteen? At eighteen I could vote, join the military, be sentenced as an adult if I committed a crime. I could do whatever I wanted without the consent of anyone else, except, idiotically enough, enjoy a glass of wine with my dinner at the restaurant. And yet. I was not financially independent. There was still a lot that I didn’t know. I didn’t feel the sort of assurance and confidence that the child me expected adults to feel. And culturally I wasn’t expected to feel like an adult or to act like one. I didn’t expect to be treated as an adult.
Most of us, in making the transition from childhood to adulthood have very little useful sense of what it is that we’re supposed to be growing into. Is it maturity? Well, there are some remarkably immature senior citizens out there. Though maturity is certainly an element. And what about the various aspects of maturity? Physical, emotional, spiritual. What else is involved?
I think that adulthood is that season in our lives when we can reasonably demand, expect, and be viewed and treated as an equal—as an adult—by all those adults around us in society. We’ve given it some age tags: by this point you should at least be starting to make these adjustments, even if you haven’t finished them. And it’s a relational thing. It’s me expecting to be treated in a certain way and you treating me in that way. It’s younger people asserting their peerage and older members acknowledging it. Rights and responsibilities and priviliges are all tied in, but all they all stem from a certain basic recognition of the equal worth of each human being and how we give each other the dignity of recognizing that equality.
So why does our culture, one supposedly based on freedom and equality have so many problems with people making that transition, and what's the church's role in all this? More, eventually.