A Coming-of-Age Meditation

Rev. Douglas Taylor


My colleague, Edward Searl says we experience four major transitions in a typical life.  These transitions are marked by rites of passage among religious people, and different religions mark them in different ways – though it has been argued that all religions mark these four transitions in some way.


Birth and Death are the greatest; they frame the human endeavor and give it definition.  Both happen within a moment, a space of time that is measureable and quantifiable.  The next major transition that many (though not all) people experience is marriage.  This also is a transition that happens ‘all at once.’  Whether or not you agree with my colleague’s assessment and categorization of these first three transitions, notice that the fourth transition – that of ‘coming of age’ – is a continuing process, a drawn-out journey that transpires over the course of as much as a decade of time.  It does not happen ‘all at once.’


There are various cultural markers,” my colleague Searl writes, “such as entering high-school, acquiring a driver’s license, or turning twenty-one, but at the heart becoming a grown-up is a private journey.  Each adolescent achieves maturity in fits and starts.  There is no single defining observance.”


Those of us now gathered who count ourselves past this tumultuous and intense time of becoming an adult can likely smile in recognition of the full experience.  Some of us can even wonder if ‘becoming a grown-up’ has even yet happened for us, though we be chronologically years beyond the defined time by which we should have grown-up.  Coming of Age is not something that happens all at once, in one shining moment.  It is a slow unfolding, a gradual becoming, a constant growing into yourself.


        And so I say to all of you in the room, this service today is specifically to recognize these young people among us, the words we say and the rituals we enact are for them.  But in a way these words and rituals are for each of us as well.  This is a time for all of us to consider the questions, “Who are you?  Who will you be tomorrow?  What matters most as you consider the best ‘you’ you are working to become?”