Like I said yesterday, this is a personal message to young adults…both singles and couples.
Over the last two decades, I’ve seen changes in the part of life (young adulthood) I hold closest to my heart. We were both barely 21 in our first year of marriage. This summer marked 40 years since Wanda and I made the promise to spend our lives together. We moved away from the motherland twenty years ago, so most of the changes I have witnessed have happened here in the Great State, but I suspect they may exist outside of the frontier, also.
(Warning. Beware of “over-personalizing” every observation I make. I’m dealing with some specifics, as well as some pretty huge generalizations. Some of them may nail you right between the eyes…others may miss the target altogether. When shoes fit, put them on. When they don’t, put them back on the shelf. I am a master of the mixed metaphor…)
I look at what’s going on today, and I see something totally different than how Wanda and I lived in our 20’s and 30’s. I see culture exerting its will over the hearts and schedules of young adults in ways that were completely foreign to us. I see young adults growing more and more inward and protective of their time and money and possessions and children. I see your battle and hear your frustrations.
Rather than “choosing” a lifestyle, I listen to story after story of people who feel their lifestyles are being dictated by demanding jobs and incomes that are being stretched so thin they are ready to explode.
Here is the path I see the majority of people following these days: People will work hard…get up early…stay late…and put up with high demands and uncomfortable situations…as long as it nets a paycheck or directly benefits their home/family in some way. But most people simply don’t want to be pushed outside their comfort zones in their “negotiable” time…what little they have of it.
Because well-paying jobs are harder to come by, young adults are willing to be miserable in order to keep those jobs. Part of this is noble. We must take care of our families. But I hear fewer and fewer stories of idealism and dreaming and living by faith…and see more and more looks of emptiness, frustration and “shoulder shrugging” resignment. My heart goes out to so many young adults these days who see a richer and deeper life, but it sits outside their grasp.
Our houses have become sanctuaries for personal retreat and insulation from the nasty, demanding world outside our doors. Home improvement has little or nothing to do with the quality of relationships that are built inside our walls…but about the next new thing we can add to make our behind-closed-doors experience a better one.
On the positive side, I see more young parents taking their roles of protector-provider very serious. But I also see parents who are bowing down to worship at the altar of their own kids! That’s when life is allowed to revolve around the kids…when parents sacrifice everything for their own kid’s personality development… happiness…education…experience… schedule…to the exclusion of community life outside the family walls.
More than anything, I see young adults who have lost sight of bigger pictures. The need for a greater community experience…the command for genuine, selfless service to others for free…the cry for deep, transparent, challenging friendships…the profound value of a village for our children to grow up in…these seem to be pearls that are losing their worth. Quickly.
Hey, it’s easy to throw stones. It’s a lot harder to provide light for the journey. There are no easy, quick fixes. Life seems to be a lot more complicated for you guys, than it was for me when I was your age. But if you hunger for more… If there is something inside you that says there is a more meaningful life out there to be had…here are a few suggestions for turning it around:
Find a person or a group of people that needs what you have to offer…your talents…your gifts… your passion…your love…your service…and make a commitment to those people. Make it so they depend on you. Make it so that if you don’t do your part, those people lose. Make it so that breaking your commitment is simply not an option. Teach a class. Lead a group. Serve on a team. Don’t just volunteer your time. Invest your life. I didn’t say it would be easy. But you can do it.
Find a group of like-minded, like-hearted young adults and begin meeting with them regularly. Find an existing group. Start your own group. Meet about something that interests you. Read a book. Study a topic. Go out to eat. Play on a team. Share a hobby. Meet a need. Just do it together with some people. Regularly. I think you will be blown away by the change that happens in your heart. And you may even find the stress in your schedule is much easier to manage. I still believe in a God that changes people.
Practice saying “no” to yourself and your family. Everybody will be much better for the experience.
Make the time to really determine if you want to live a life of selflessness…a life of community…a life of transparency…a life larger than your personal family unit. Some people don’t want it. Some people are quite content with being the center of their own world. So be it.
(Here’s a side note: In 35 years of youth ministry, it was always pretty easy to pick out the entitled, overly self-absorbed, inflexible, kids in the youth group, whose mommy’s and daddy’s had over-protected, pampered, and micro-managed. They were the kids that seldom, if ever, wanted to go on our road trips or camps. They simply didn’t know how to surrender their need to have everything just the way they wanted it, for the greater good of the group or the purpose of the trip. They were the kids that complained and whined more than anybody else. Although they were usually “nice” kids, honestly, they were also the kids nobody in the youth group really liked. I sense the same is just as true these days, as it was back in the dinosaur days when I roamed the land. But it’s not too late to make changes!)
However, if you sense a calling to walk in hallowed footsteps…if the size of your world is shrinking…if you don’t want your children to grow up like you…then you have to step boldly. Is the life you are living really the life you were meant to live?
I’ll close with a quote from one of my all-time favorite books, We Really Do Need One Another by Reuben Welch:
You know, we want to save ourselves and hold ourselves back as though the highest goal in life would be to look good in our caskets. It’s no special blessing to come to the end of life with love unshared, selves ungiven, activities unactivated, deeds undone, emotions unextended. It’s not an encouraging thought, especially at my age in life—but I have the feeling that when a person is middle-aged, he ought to be about half used up. And when I read this passage, I keep asking myself what I’m saving myself for? Isn’t it God’s intention that when we come to the end of the line, we’re just about used up?