June 8, 2012

Adulthood & The Power of a Father's Words

I just turned in this reflection paper answering the questions: how has your identity taken shape  during your emerging adulthood? Do you consider yourself an emerging adult or young adult (or something else)? Highlight specific factors or experiences that have influenced your sense of identity. Also, please speak to the formation of your ethnic identity development--even if you are European-American. The reflection was on  an Article entitled: Emerging Adults in America: Coming of Age in the 21st Century. Ethnic Identity Exploration in Emerging Adulthood. 

Would love to hear your thoughts, happy reading....

Me & My Spiritual Father,
Benjamin Robinson,
at College Graduation
There have been two very pivotal moments in my life that I would say launched me into adulthood and manhood. However, these moments were not necessarily actions that I did, events that occurred or ceremonies that took place. These two pivotal moments took place in conversations and came in the form of declarations.
The first declaration took place when I was 20 years old. I remember wrestling with the questions, “Am I a man yet? Am I an adult?” So I went to speak with my Senior Pastor, Benjamin Robinson, who I see as my spiritual father, a 2nd father to me. I shared my questions with him and remember him looking at me and saying, “Joseph, you are a man. You are no longer a boy, but you are a man.” The power of his words launched me into an awakening to a sense of manhood and adulthood.
After that moment my thinking life, relationships and my future began to change. However, I didn’t fully seem to really grasp what it meant to be an adult man. About 5 years later, after I got married, I had my second pivotal moment. This time it was with my biological father who I love, respect and honor.
I called my father and began the conversation by saying, “Dad, you are my father and your words carry power. Do you see me as a man, a good man? Do you see me as a good husband to my wife? Are you proud of me?” My dad paused. I could just imagine his surprise at the directness of my statement and questions.
Me & My Awesome Father,
Chon F. Sevier,
 at College Graduation
Then he said, “Of course I do.” I immediately responded, “I need to hear it from you. Can you tell me that I am a man, a good man, a good husband to my wife and that you are proud of me?” My father immediately, confidently and loving told me I was a man, a good man, a good husband to my wife and that he was proud of me, then he explained why.
From that moment on I have not questioned any one of those things. I have taken the declarations of my biological and spiritual fathers and have settled in my heart that they are truth. In any place that I do not see my life lining up with what they declared I seek to bring those areas into alignment with the truth, but I do not question the identity they have spoken over me. For me, those have been the two most pivotal moments and declarations that have launched me into adulthood and manhood.
Therefore, I would not say that I am an emerging adult or young adult. I would say that I am an adult. I believe that I would fall most in line with those described as,
“If young people move directly from high school into stable jobs within their community, and also marry and settle down in the same setting, there may be no further pressure to examine their ethnicity. They can be considered identity foreclosed; they attain the markers of adulthood with little evidence of an extended exploration, and hence cannot be said to experience emerging adulthood.” (p. 121)

While I feel like I fall most in line with this description of those who enter into adulthood it was not primarily me doing things that solidified my sense of adulthood. Rather, it was the words of my natural and spiritual father. Further, while my ethnicity is something that I desire to understand, it is not from within my ethnic or cultural framework that I seek a definition of manhood or adult hood.
One of the primary reasons I do not believe my ethnic framework or cultural heritage defines adulthood, manhood or identity for me is because I never felt a strong sense of connection to my ethnic heritage. Rather, I have felt a strong sense of identity from my relationship with God through Jesus Christ, which I believe is immersed in and transcends culture. I believe this also has a lot to do with me growing up in a very culturally diverse setting.
A lot of my life I never really felt “fully Mexican or American.” I didn’t speak Spanish, know Mexican history, listen to Mexican music or understand much of Mexican tradition. At the same time, I was brown, had black hair, grew up with other minorities, came from a low-middle class family, and wasn’t White (which many around me identified with being ‘American’). I fell into the category described as,
“Any individuals living in settings that are different from their culture of origin are faced with questions regarding their bicultural or multicultural identity. They must determine how and to what extent to identify with the cultures they are exposed to: their native or parental cultural, the culture of the larger society in which they reside (LaFromboise, Coleman, & Gerton, 1993), and perhaps also other cultures with which they come in contact (Phinney & Alipuria, in press),” (p. 125)
Therefore, growing up I never felt that I could say that I was Mexican or American. I call myself a Mexican-American, but even now I would like to understand more of my family of origin’s rich heritage (those from Mexico), as well as understand the heritage of the American people (those in the past and those who have been born American citizens).
While I recognize that many ‘minority’ cultures do have clear rites or ceremonies that establish the shift from childhood to adulthood or adolescent to adulthood, I believe the shift can take place despite the functions. While understanding ethnicity is important for understanding identity and ceremonies such as: hunting, a quinceanera, marriage, having children, etc. may symbolize a shift from childhood to adulthood those events can take place without a child fully being established as an adult. Identity is not determined by actions; rather, actions are determined by identity.
In my experience and from what I see in the biblical paradigm, it is the father and/or mother that solidify the identity of a child and this primarily by their declarations. It is very evident how God set the pattern of parental words to be powerful and identifying, especially in the form of blessing. Therefore, I believe both naturally and spiritually it is the declarations of the fathers and mothers that establish true identity over children and establish them in their adulthood.

Phinney, Jean S., Arnett, J.J., & Tanner, J.L. (eds). Emerging Adults in America: Coming of Age in the 21stCentury. Ethnic Identity Exploration in Emerging Adulthood. Pages 117-134.