While in graduate school, I learned many theories. Just recalling that fact creates a bit of discomfort! One of the theories I studied early on was that of William Perry, focusing on intellectual and moral development. The theory is comprised of three stages: dualism, multiplicity and relativism. We considered these stages in the context of college student development. As I witnessed our daughter who is a rising senior in college give a presentation over the weekend for girls ages 8-18, I felt Godly (and mommy) proud of her journey, and her ability to discuss how she honed her God given gifts. I reflected upon her first year, where she solely operated in dualism. Everything could be regarded as right and wrong, good and bad and one authority on all matters. I consider how she did precisely what her faculty required. She didn’t desire to ever “upset the apple cart.” In fact, she initially enrolled in a college that provided nearly a full ride, yet she was miserable. However, she did not want to create any problems, and had succumbed to remaining in a less than empowering environment. After much prayer she agreed to listen to her mom (whom she considered authority) and subsequently transferred to another institution, and the problem was solved.
As she matured, she transitioned to the second stage, multiplicity. In this stage, a person realizes that there are both solvable problems, and those that the answer may not be as clear. At this stage, the person begins to listen to their inner voice. Our conversations via text, email and on the phone brought forth her knowledge. She began discussing issues with friends, and their collective wisdom was considered against what I would suggest. Often what I offered was redesigned and cloaked in her peers’ thoughts and acted upon. I was no longer the “go to” person.
In the collegiate’s latter years, she entered the stage of relativism. In this stage, students realize that solutions exist, but they are determined in a contextual manner. Further, there is an acceptance that uncertainty is a part of life – and the most viable manner for figuring things out is both through the utility of one’s inner voice and external experiences. I witnessed our daughter’s relativism as she presented. She spoke of her journey, her triumphs and challenges, and her desire to pursue her dreams, all while affirming those glorious minds before her. It was a beautiful revelation and yet during our post presentation talk, I was affirmed that in a spiritual framework, the more grace afforded, the greater the desire to reside in a state of dualism.
God is in charge. He is sovereign, and it’s okay with me. He is the sole authority in my life. If the Lord allows, my mother will be 82 this week, and while I remain respectful of her, she reared me with an expectation that God’s commandment over my life is not only essential, but critical. One of my favorite scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” But how might we expose ourselves with the thoughts he thinks of us, if we don’t know Him? We get to know Him as we endure hardness as good soldiers (II Timothy 2:3). We don’t want to sign up for hardness. I can recall my senior year in college being required to take a class to graduate that started at 7:45am. Eight o’clock in the morning was bad enough, but 15 minutes earlier was tortuous. Yet, it was what I needed. Without it, I would not be granted a degree, and four years would have been wasted. I don’t always want to do what God instructs. Sometimes I want to revert further back than dualism and act out the characteristics common of one who is in her terrible twos. I want to have my way. I don’t want to share. I don’t always have the words to fully express how I feel and so I do so with external demonstrations that are not always welcoming. Just as the parent God is, he nurtures me through each stage, offering discipline and love appropriate to the situation.
Experiences with God operate through constructivism and yet there is an expectation by God to return to an operational state of dualism, excitedly faithful to believe that He is the authority. This week, my car decided that she wanted to act out. While my husband excels in knowing about car maintenance, eventually, he checked with the dealer, the creator of the vehicle to discuss the issue. Accordingly, when we desire to know all things about us, we must go to the Creator, the one who knows us, inside and out, what He put in us, and when it’s required to come forth. Although we learn through our experiences and each one prepares us for the next, no matter what, as God continues to take me on this journey, and as I witness him taking my children through theirs, there is one constant; God will ensure that we get to the expected end! No matter what detours we elect to take or those that are assigned to us personally, we can certainly navigate them best with a dualism mindset. We must remain grounded in the fact that He is Lord, all knowing, all powerful, all loving, all encompassing and complete. If you are weary of trusting your own wisdom (or lack thereof), why not trust God? Isaiah 40:28 tells us, Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” Dualism involves trusting in authority. As such, that means letting go of self. The older I get, the more I look forward to relinquishing to the Master. I surrender all! I’ve tried multiple choice, He is the right answer.