Do you (or did you) ever feel like you needed to have life figured out by age 25?
I'm not going to lie, as I approach turning 22 years old this August, I have found myself wanting to emotionally dig my heels into the ground, and stay 21 forever until I die. Growing up is scary, because growing up means having answers or feeling like you need to find those answers.
"What are you going to do with your life?" is the infamous question students of all ages get. Even elementary: "what do you want to be when you grow up?" These questions can provoke fear, insecurity, discomfort, anxiety, or even depression, for some people maybe all of them.
Now, if you're like me, something I have to lead myself into NOT doing is comparing. And it's not so much with the people I do life with as it is with the world's standards, America's standards of success. America glorifies the young person who births businesses in their garage and a few years later is thriving and has created an impressive net worth. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the Google founders, created Google at age 25. Steve Jobs was 21 when he created Apple. Bill Gates upon creating Microsoft? 20 years old. Jeff Bezos (Creator of Amazon): 31 years old.
Most everyone knows these businesses; if I were to talk about how awesome Amazon is, how many people's first thoughts would be about the rainforest over the elite shipping company? Little too none. And hear me out, I'm not bashing businesses, nor the entrepreneurial geniuses that created them, and I'm definitely not belittling the crazy, HARD work that was required to get them to where they are today. Like, it is likely that I am the one probably keeping Amazon in business (where are my fellow Prime peeps at). All I'm saying is it's hard to live in a culture that practically shouts, "okay, now, what do you have to offer?" But a lot of us are still trying to figure out the answer to that question.
C'mon hollah, if you've ever felt the pressure of this! (And all the brothers and sisters out there say hollah). It's a real thing. And as I approach the age 22 this month, I feel the temptation to need to pick a career for self-preservation sake and just commit, so I can quickly earn money to save for that house, then that car, then those kids, then those kids' college and so on. So I should hurry up, find a lane to run in so I can start running, otherwise won't the race start without me? I know there are these desires in my heart, but they won't pay the bills. I remember the promises God made to me about what I'm made for and/or where I'm going, but I haven't seen any advancements in those plans in years, so isn't it time to move on? Or maybe you have identified the desires in your heart and are running with it, but did you talk with God about it before you started running?
There are so many different scriptures that can apply to this.
"The Lord says, 'I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you'" (Psalm 32:8).
"You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny" (Psalm 73:24).
"You know every step I will take before my journey even begins. You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way..." (Psalm 139:4-5).
Proverbs 20:24 says, "It is the Lord who directs your life, for each step you take is ordained by God to bring you closer to your destiny. So much of your life, then, remains a mystery!" (For the last sentence, the Aramaic reads 'So what man is capable of ordering his way?').
“Think about the lilies. They grow and become beautiful, not because they work hard or strive to clothe themselves. Yet not even Solomon, wearing his kingly garments of splendor, could be compared to a field of lilies. If God can clothe the fields and meadows with grass and flowers, can’t he clothe you as well, O struggling one with so many doubts? I repeat it: Don’t let worry enter your life. Live above the anxious cares about your personal needs. People everywhere seem to worry about making a living, but your heavenly Father knows your every need and will take care of you. Each and every day he will supply your needs as you seek his kingdom passionately, above all else" (Luke 12:27-31).
God is a God that provides, but just like the first couple scriptures, he's a God that guides. To be guided means there's a journey (an act or instance of traveling from one place to another) where you are unfamiliar with the path. Spoiler alert: journeys usually don't end within 24 hours. It takes time. Here's the amazing but frustrating part about God: he's patient. He's not in a rush for you to have answers, even though you might be. He has no desire to give them to you all at once. He actually wants you to come to him with the question: "God, what do I have to offer? What did you knit in me that the world needed?" Trust me, there's an answer. There is an answer. He never makes purposeless people. You are not purposeless, no matter if you or others have said otherwise. You have something to bring to the table. So that "what do I have to offer" question, he will answer it, but are you willing to wait for the answer in his timing? Are you okay if he doesn't respond or reveal it in that moment? What about that week? Month? Year? ...Dare I say it, years? Are you going to wait for him or rush to find the first lane you see? It's a real struggle. But it's worth the wait.
Here's another question, what are you doing while you wait? I'm in the 1% of the population that has not seen Karate Kid. I know, I know, I'm sorry, I wasn't quick enough to watch it on Netflix when it was on there. But I have seen the remake with Jaden Smith (I know, don't boo me, I'm still wanting to see the original). But I am very familiar with the scene where the kid, Daniel DeRusso, finally realizes why Mr. Miyagi had him do all those seemingly purposeless assignments: sanding the floor, waxing the car, painting the fence, and painting the house- like really why wouldn't the karate guru just hurry up and give the skills set that Daniel needed? Are you in a place where you feel you are going through the motions and on purposeless assignments? Are you asking God, "what does this have to do with anything?" Later on, we figure out that the hand motions for all the housework Daniel had done are core movements in the defense side of karate. The simple housework was full of purpose, and actually imperative to moving on. If God is leading you to do it, then do it. Soon enough, you will have the same realization of how the seemingly unimportant and mundane assignments God has sent you to do becomes the foundation of what your purpose needs.
Probably the single most important thing of all: stay in relationship with God through all the struggle, joy, anxious moments, the exciting realizations of purpose, the "Lord, what in the world?!" moments, the "I want to give up" moments- in all of them, never allow yourself to disconnect from God as a son or a daughter (and if you recognize that is where you are currently at, simply ask for forgiveness and move forward). God is not your manager, he is not just the "man upstairs that hands you your assignments or what you need". He is your Father that wants the best for you and wants to converse with you as you uncover your potential and purpose. He is the guide of the journey but he also wants to share the experience of it with you. He so delights in that. If the only time you get alone with God (quiet time, Jesus time, whatever you may call it) is to attempt to get answers from scripture or him, then pause. While God takes joy in giving revelations and answers to his kiddos, there is more for you in that time than that.
I challenge you to drop expectations during that time and just speak out "Father, I've come to spend time with you, what do you want to say today?" let him lead for today's meet up. It will refresh you, and God (the one that knows all) knows exactly what you need in this moment of your life, give him the time and space to say what he needs to say and do what he needs to do. It will breathe life and hope into you, and that weight of unhealthy expectation and anxiety will fall off. Because in his presence, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17).
So that weight of unhealthy expectation we talked about earlier, it was never for us to carry AND it's our choice we choose to lug it around with us or drop it and leave it. God confronted me to drop it right before I graduated high school, and I did. Sometimes I still have to remind myself to not pick it back up though. I've learned I can run quicker without it.
The expectation to be a successful business person in your mid-twenties: unlikely, maybe true for a select few. And it's okay to not be one of those select few.
Knowing all the answers for your life at age 22: impossible. Age 40? Still impossible. Age 60? Still impossible. Age 80...maybe, but still most likely, impossible. God's got all the answers, he will share which one I need to know, when I need to know it.
I have had the privilege of serving in a student ministry in Kansas, and one of the leaders I got to serve alongside of referred to his birthday as "leveling up". He was a dad and a really good one. So instead of stressing about another year I don't have all the answers or have it all "together", I'm just leveling up, and it's needed for the next "mission"! Level 22 is about to be the best level yet!