Recently I have been reading a book called "The God Who is There" by Francis Shaeffer. It talks about some of the philosophical trends that have happened in the last century that have to do with denial of absolute truth in the like. In it, he mentions two French philosophers who talked about self actualisation (I forget who they were). Basically, to self actualise, you just have to do an action. You have to make a choice - so helping a lady cross the street would be no more or less valid than beating her up and stealing her bag.
Simultaneously I have been coming across a lot of material (blogs, sermons, and, who knew, a complete recording available for free online of C.S. Lewis's "Mere Christianity" - gold) which have been talking about adulthood or maturity in the faith and the journey onward to salvation.
The theme of a lot of it has been something clearly biblical, yet which I think many mainstream theologians have either overlooked or downplayed. I have heard it a lot from those who would be considered "heterodox" - like Greg Boyd (highly recommend looking him up) and Rob Bell. It is the idea that the New Creation that will happen when Jesus returns is a certain type of place. In this life we are trying to practise and exercise our wills so that our characters will transform more and more into the type of character that can exist in a place like that.
This is a really cool way of thinking about life here, and it also gives me a context in which to understand the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox idea of "work's" role in salvation - this character transformation happens only through our exercises of will and the actions big and small that we carry out each and every day. So even though we are justified through grace alone, our "salvation" in the sense of becoming completely free from sin and surrendered to God, does happen through works.
So why have I called this post adulthood. Well, it occurred to me that the real and true way of "self actualisation" is, paradoxically, to give the self more and more over to the will of God. In the words of John the Baptist "I must decrease, He must increase."
God is calling me, and all of us, to adulthood. To self actualisation by submitting our will more and more to Him. To growing up into the character that will be made completely ours in the new creation - and thankfully by His grace, we can do this without feeling we have to prove ourselves or justify ourselves. Little by little, we can practise, and change, and grow.