None of us starts at the end. We’re born as babies before growing into adults. We crawl before we walk. We learn the alphabet before reading. We earn a driving permit before a license. In short, we must journey through multiple stages before we fully mature.
This process also applies to discernment. When we become a Christian, we don’t instantly become mature with the ability to separate good from evil. Rather, like our physical counterparts, we start out as babies. Then we must journey one step at a time toward the discernment that comes with maturity:
Stage 1: Infancy. New to this whole spiritual thing, infants have little or no discernment at this stage. This requires them to have very strict boundaries and much “adult” supervision.
Stage 2: Childhood. Discernment is now slowly developing, and a child’s true “north” of good is being set into place. As a result, the stuff of life is primarily seen as either right or wrong, with nothing between. Boundaries rapidly expand at this age, but children still require a fair amount of supervision.
Stage 3: Adolescence. Knowledge comes to full bloom at this stage, and adolescents become aware of all that could be. However, personal boundaries are still being figured out: just because you can doesn’t mean you should. As a result, adolescents have a fair amount of discernment, but tend to stretch the boundaries to their maximum, sometimes to the point of being unsafe, and accountability is helpful in learning to navigate gray areas.
Stage 4: Adulthood. Maturity is reached! Having consistently trained themselves, adults know (for the most part) what is right, what is wrong, and how to handle gray areas. They still have blind spots and must keep learning, but they’ve reached the point where they serve, rather insisting they be served: it’s time to turn around and help the next generation grow up in their discernment!