Ben Berning in Pee Wee football

I was 12. I was a warrior. A conquerer. A self-made man.

Farmer-tanned glory days. Everybody has a period in life referred to as the awkward years.

Those wonderful pre-pubescent years of complete confusion. Perhaps it was middle school, maybe a little into junior high, or (*ahem*) high school where we started to find out the most incredible things about ourselves. For the most part we had no idea what the heck was going on. Everything was out of whack. New muscles, squeaky voices and the confidence of mighty mouse.

We scratched and crawled through those awkward years with “things need to get worse before they get better” as our battle cry of hope. Just barely we began to grow out of those mystical years. The joy of figuring things out led to a renewed recognition of our specific talents and desires. We cultivated those talents and pursued those desires. All due to our ability to have confidence in ourselves. We took control of our muscles, we took control of our voices, and we took control of our egos. All good things.

Unfortunately, that new found confidence was mostly found in either our comparison to others or the acceptance we received from our friends. Society told us that only the self-confident survive and a culture with “I am the best” blaring through our speakers and used as a slogan on our t-shirts afforded us with all the pseudo-confidence we needed.

We were under the illusion that we had it all under control. Shameful comparison and self-delusion brought the thought-to-be “self-made” man into happiness. Control was lost and we became embarrassed. Flustered and confused we asked, do I control anything? Then, the promise of having everything figured out soon became a lie to be recognized. The end of the awkward years called for a new type of dependence.

“There are no self-made men, for self-made men have mothers.” – Marc Barnes

Beings created out of nothing cannot depend only on themselves. If we depend only on ourselves we will surely lose ourselves. There is only one thing for which we can depend, our sovereign Lord, this generous Father. The one Jesus called “Abba” a.k.a “Daddy”.

“Amen, amen I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will also do. For the Father loves His Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.”
– John 5:19-21

With the spirit of a fearless child we seek real, authentic maturity. The type of maturity that places all confidence in the Father’s sacrificial love. Renewed in Baptism, anointed in Confirmation, and made tabernacles in the Eucharist we no longer live after our own hearts. We live after His Sacred Heart. We have been called to enter into His paternal care and guidance. This calls for us to “grow-up” and let the Lord make us small.

“Confidence comes into the degree of which we are humble.” – I Believe in Love, Fr. Jean C.J. d’Elbee

Sweet, sweet, kind of confusing maturity. He gives us control so we can choose to let Him take control. We can respond to His offer. We don’t have to respond. We should respond.

Four Ways to Mature as Sons and Daughters


Call Upon the Holy Spirit

This third person of the Trinity humbly abides in us. Always radically available, the Holy Spirit remains eternally present to us. We are to call upon His Spirit in all we do. When you pray the Rosary call upon our Mother’s spouse. When you go to Mass call upon the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit grants you a supernatural faith to recognize the depths of what our Lord does on the altar. He abides in us. Do we abide in Him? When you need comfort, when you need healing and when you need peace (you do need these things) call upon the Holy Spirit.

Go Forth

In the same way we want to bury those pictures from the awkward years, we want to bury our mistakes. These memories are essential for our growth. Our whole being, past present and future must be brought to the light. The multiplication of trials that come with acts of sinful duplicity are not the end of the world. There is a deep desire to forget. We don’t need to “forget” God gives us the power to prevail. His mercy is endless. Take courage!

“Even if I had committed all possible crimes, I would still have the same confidence; I would feel that this multitude of offenses would be like a drop of water thrown into the flaming furnace of God’s love.” – St. Therese of Lisieux

Make Joyful Sacrifice

Love is not always comfortable nor does it always come naturally. In the Lord’s great love for us we cannot help but have a deep burning desire to love Him in return. This love is achieved by unifying our will with His Will. In order to make room for His will we must sacrifice our will. This starts with the small things. Give up earthly desires replace them with the Lord’s desires. Every small act we do for the Lord is a big-time consolation to the Sacred Heart.

Be Obedient to Love

Jesus Christ was obedient to the point of death. Out of love He humbled Himself to face the brutality of man. By living for His Father, by living for us, He modeled the type of obedience we need, the obedience of a son, of a daughter. Obedience to the Father gives us an eternal perspective. In obedience to Love we take on a perspective in which our eyes only gaze heavenward.

“Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness, and found in human appearance, he humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2: 5-8