I need to start today helping you identify if you land in the category of “adult” in order to know if the rest of my letter does, in fact, apply to you.

Ready? Name your age. Was it above 20? Yes? Great!

Welcome to adulthood. There seems to be a common misconception that adulthood has something to do with feeling like an adult. Here in lies a great secret- you feel like an adult when you behave like an adult. Did you know 100 years ago men and women took on adult roles at 16? The average for people to leave adolescence behind in our culture is 30. Sociologists are calling it “delayed adolescence” and I am content to leave the blame game for that little phenomenon to others, but would love to give you five ways you can be sure you are not stuck acting like an overgrown teenager:

Accept responsibility and quit believing you are owed anything. This means don’t blame others for your mistakes or failures, but instead, figure out what you can do to make it better or right. Say you are sorry when you screw up, and mean it. Quit waiting for people to tell you what to do and just start moving in the direction you want to go. Stop acting like life should be fair. Realize that to do well or be great at anything it will take sacrifice and hard work. If God gave you a talent, use it! Show up for your own life, and show up for others. Be on time. And for heaven’s sake, commit a real response to invitations- maybe is not a real response.

Deal with your past. If you have trauma, hurts, broken relationships with family or secrets, they will tend to hold you hostage emotionally and show up in your present until you work through them. Healing is possible and often requires opening up to safe people who can love you as you talk through your pain. Find those people. Pastors, counselors, and your church community can all be great places to turn.

Learn when to say no and when to say yes. When we are children, the adults around us set boundaries for us. Where we can go, who we go with and what we get to do. Healthy adults have to learn how to make choices that are God-honoring and wise. Read Boundaries. Talk with others who are past your stage in life to get insight. Find a mentor. Consider the bigger picture before making commitments. And memorize this sentence: Let me think about it, and I’ll get back to you.

Decide that love is messy and worth it. Real grown-up relationships involve conflict, sacrifice, and work. They are not simple because people are not simple. It is adolescent to walk away from relationships because they get hard. Loving your spouse, your kids, and your friends will not always be fun or easy. It is worth because loving others changes you. You become more like Christ every time you love another person who is being unlovable. The highest law is love. It trumps being right, it is more powerful than knowledge, and it transforms dark broken places in our world. But it always begins with a decision to love, not a feeling of love.

Determine your worth by God’s unshakeable love. It’s just so easy to stay stuck in earning approval from the “cool kids.” Who likes your Instagram pics and which parties you get invited to and if a certain leader speaks to you are not a measure of what you are worth. The gospel says you were loved so much that though you (and I) deserved death for our sin, God came to pay the price for us. He gave us worth because He loved us enough to rescue us with His very life. It is easy to feel insecure when we live our lives comparing ourselves to others. But God’s love gives us both security and worth, by acknowledging we have value to Him. We didn’t earn that love, so we can’t lose it. Once you settle your worth, compulsive and irrational behaviors are easier to let go of, no longer believing Botox or a new job or cuter clothes or better sex proves anything about you.

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” 1 Peter 2:2