Today is September 1st, 2014 and I have been 22 for almost six months. As graduation shifts from a distant goal to a nearing reality, I’ve decided to take a moment, drink a pumpkin spice latte (it is September now after all) and reflect on the last 180 days or so.
As I think back, for starters, the past few months of my life have more closely resembled “Wrecking Ball” than any Taylor Swift music video (think more angst and less cake). I thought I would be working at a Fortune 500 company by now, or at least fallen in love (like 96% of my university)… but in reality I’m single and still starting my cover letter with “I’m writing to express interest in your unpaid internship…”
My salary requirements have gone from enough to land a sweet loft in SoHo and settled somewhere near “make enough money to add guacamole at Chipotle.” The crazy concerts and dances you see 20-somethings at on MTV are the exception, not the norm, and for the most part, a wild Friday night looks like a large bowl of hummus, a bag of whole baby carrots and streaming Parks & Rec on Netflix.
It’s funny how one day I’ve got the car windows down blaring Beyoncé, every empowering beat of “Flawless” confirming the fact I’m ready to take on the world… The next, I’m laying spread eagle on my mattress staring at the ceiling fan wondering why my life can’t look more like a 90s sitcom; each melancholic note of Bon Iver’s “Holocene” seemingly whispering I can’t take on the dirty dishes, let alone my aspirations.
I read stuff in the Bible like John 10:10, that Jesus came to bring life, and life to the full. It taps into my deepest desires- conjuring up images of a life of adventure and abundance, of destiny and purpose. If the promise is true, why does it feel so out of reach for myself, and so many of my friends in the throes of a quarter life crisis? Why does 22 feel more like a ‘failure to launch’ instead of a propulsion into orbit? For starters, I’m realizing this life, the Christian one (and the “adult” one for that matter), are a lot harder than everyone pretends they are. In large part because it requires me to, and I’m quoting Martin Luther, “cement myself to Christ”, meaning I’m no longer in control of my own life…. which stinks because I’ve never been terribly good at sharing.
As I reflect on this summer, and on what lies ahead, I’ve written down some of my musings, and a handful of ways I’m trying to cement myself to Christ:
1. Step into your fears
I’ve come to find it’s not so much fear of the unknown that holds people back from chasing dreams, taking risks or pursuing their calling so much as it is the pain of leaving the known. Particularly, when what you’ve come to know has been so beautiful. There’s a misnomer in Christianity, I think, that says having faith makes jumping off the cliff easier.
(Spoiler alert): Falling is the worst. The cliff is still terrifying and honestly, having faith does not make the falling any easier. It does, however, deepen your faith when you emerge on the other side. You can’t have a great faith apart from great fear. I’m realizing that with each new chapter of my life come these new fears, new anxieties, new junk I didn’t even know was there (seriously, where does this stuff come from?)… But my perspective has changed. I used to think fear was a prison to I was trapped in, now I see it as a pathway to greater freedom and faith in Christ.
2. Remember your worth
Slowly but surely, everything I’ve used as a marker to identify myself has been, or is about to be stripped away. Being a college student, being a YoungLife leader, an intern, a resident of Lynchburg, Virginia. Silly things, sure, but without them, who am I? What am I left with when I have no “home”, no “job”, a community scattered across the globe… It’s easy to feel inadequate, or weak when you’re 22 and unemployed. Yet, I’m realizing, who I am is not rooted in these things, nor is it to be found in my struggles. Of course it’s important to honor God with our actions, our lives, our bodies, but since when did our worth become dependent on what we do and not on what Christ has already done? My identity is, and always has been rooted deeply in my son-ship- I am, and you are, a part of a royal priesthood, a chosen people relentlessly, personally and intimately pursued. I think one of the keys to making it out of the “quarter-life crisis” alive is remembering who you are and to Whom you belong.
3. Pursue holiness
I’ve seen a trend in my own life to see how close I could get to the fire without being burned. I’ve made reckless, poor choices and have been burned by them. Being a Christian isn’t about not having sex, or not drinking, smoking, doing drugs or a myriad of other moralities people typically associate with religion. It’s about pursuing holiness and purity for their sake. There’s a huge difference between that and living a life of legalism and obligation.
4. Strengthen your community
One thing I’ve found in this season is I’m far from being the only person questioning what’s next, doubting I have what it takes, or feeling frustrated with where I am. Faith and life are not individual sports, and at any given moment, I need the Christ in my friends, in my community, and they need the Christ in me. We can only go so far alone, and while we are absolutely called to walk intimately with God individually, we are also called to walk alongside one another. So, wherever you’re at, wholeheartedly invest, disciple and be discipled, be raw, authentic and real. Surround yourself with people who believe in you when you find it hard to believe in yourself.
5. Feel the feelings but know the truth
This one is so hard for me. All too often I get wrapped up in my feelings, whether it’s anger, frustration or sadness, and I let them dictate my decisions. Ashamedly, it’s taken me a while to realize just because I’m feeling lonely doesn’t mean I should download Tinder at 2 AM… I think part of growing up is realizing you control your emotions; they don’t have to control you, and remembering there is so much more to life than whatever you’re feeling now.
So, here I stand. Caught somewhere between growing and grown, I’m not quite sure who I want to be or where I want to go. I still make mistakes; I go and spend money on clothes I don’t need, binge eat on food I’m not hungry for and sometimes follow my feelings to places I shouldn’t go. I hate clichés, but I really do believe life is more than a destination but rather what you learn along the way and I’m starting to believe this “quarter life crisis” is more than just a painful stage to pass through, but a transition phase to lean into. I’ll leave you with this… you’re worth it. Whatever you’ve done, wherever you’ve been. You are so valuable. Saved or unsaved. You are loved. You are known. You are believed in and you are never, ever without hope.
22 or 92, far greater things are ahead than any we could possibly leave behind.