Year 30: Have I Arrived?
At the beginning of the year, I turned 30. While the actual day wasn’t super traumatic, the process of slowly approaching 30, rounding that curve, and then finding myself in a new decade was a bit of a slow-motion slap in the face.
When I was 24, a friend turned 30, and I totally didn’t get the mini-crisis they seemed to be facing. “Age is just a number!” I reassured them. (Oh the naivety of 24-year-old me..) Even two years ago, a friend told me he felt 30 looming over him like a massive deadline. He was supposed to have accomplished certain things by 30. He was supposed to be at a certain place.
I didn’t get it. Until now.
For me, marriage was a prominent part of my personal mini-crisis (as I’ve written about in my Still Single series), but it wasn’t the only part. In a bigger sense, I found myself re-evaluating the question that has loomed over humans from the beginning of time:
What is my life’s purpose?
As I rounded the curve of 30, I asked in a newly urgent way: What am I doing with my life? Is this where I’m supposed to be? Am I headed somewhere? Anywhere at all?
Missing the Boat, Train, Taxi, and Bus
Last year I started having a lot of stress dreams. They were filled with turbulence and tsunamis and moving vehicles. I was constantly trying to get someplace, but missing my ride or getting mugged or trying on clothes that just wouldn’t fit. Time and time again, I found myself following people who led me down wrong roads and took me even farther from where I was supposed to be.
Yet God kept showing me He didn’t feel any of those things. “You’re right where you’re supposed to be,” He would say. He would appear in my dreams as old friends who embraced me with paternal smiles, as friends who told me everything was okay. There was always someone in the dream who was in no rush to get wherever I thought I was supposed to be going.
That was when it became clear that my view of life was much more closely aligned to the typical secular millennial than God’s.
So here are some mindset shifts I’ve been undergoing recently, shifts away from millennial thinking towards old, godly wisdom. Perhaps some of them will resonate with you.
(Anything to add to the list? Feel free to add to the conversation in the comments section below!)
Millennial Mindset #1: It’s all about being seen.
Shift #1: The recognition of people is overrated.
I like to think I’m above the social media culture of collecting likes, gaining followers, and counting views, but it’s more ingrained in me than I usually like to admit. I care about being seen. I care about recognition. I care about position, promotion, and the optics of it all.
Sometimes, though I could care less what most of the world thinks of me, there is one person whose approval I secretly crave––a person who still is not God.
The desire to be seen and acknowledged is natural. But it also can be quite distracting.
I’m becoming more and more convinced that our most important callings are the hidden ones: Prayer. Preparation. Simple kindnesses. The honing of a skill. The thought put into a difficult conversation or decision. The thousand thankless chores you do every day. That choice you make internally to be considerate of someone else––who will see it? Who will recognize the sacrifice that choice was for you?
No one. Except God.
I’m constantly learning this lesson, but truly: His approval and recognition is enough. And He sees everything.
At the end of the day, what does it matter what anyone else thinks of your life? What matters is what your life is, not how it looks.
And I must add this: God is a rewarder of those who do good. (See Galatians 6.) After this life is over, He will honor those who truly deserve it, who didn’t seek an earthly reward for their efforts. Ponder that for a moment and see if it doesn’t change your perspective on a few things..
Millennial Mindset #2: It’s all about fulfilling my potential.
Shift #2: It’s all about love.
Honestly, I’m still wrapping my head around this one. I can sometimes obsess with pondering my own unique potential. It’s something my generation seems to excel at: feeling special.
In one sense, yes, we are all special. But it’s all too easy to make the jump from feeling special to feeling entitled. We constantly ask ourselves: Am I doing what I want to do? Am I doing all I am capable of doing? Important questions to consider, but not the only important ones.
You are unique, and you do have a unique calling that no one else can fill. (More on that next week.) But I challenge you to consider two additional factors:
Who is sending you? and Who are you being sent to?
First of all, our primary question should be: “Am I doing what God intends for me?” not “Am I doing what I want to do?” (Although it’s easy to slip to the other extreme of thinking what we want doesn’t matter at all. Those questions are related to each other. You might find this post of interest if you tend to fall to that extreme.)
He is the potter, we are the clay. We may think we know a thing or two, but we really don’t know much compared to what He knows. If we take Him out of the equation, we are thinking foolishly indeed.
Next, though, it’s easy to overlook the other end of the flow. God is the source, we are the vessel, and then.. there is the outflow.
God has us on this earth to be lovers.
He could have whisked us up to heaven right after we were saved, but He didn’t, He left us here. Why? Well, there might be some other reasons, too, but primarily to LOVE.
So who is He specifically calling you to love? Take a moment and think about it––and to ask Him. Again, you may find your mindset mysteriously shifting.
Millennial Mindset #3: It’s all about the fast track.
Shift #3: The most valuable skills are not developed overnight.
Millennial Mindset #4: Until I find a huge way to impact the world (that is also lucrative and personally fulfilling), I haven’t arrived.
Shift #4: What I’m doing right now is valuable.
Whatever you are doing right now is valuable. (Unless you are really being a sluggard. Laziness isn’t good––just check out Proverbs. If you are being a sluggard, however, there’s probably a root reason, so look for the root, don’t just treat the symptoms.)
We all (hopefully) know that what we do isn’t the only valuable part of our existence. Relationships are important. The laughter, brightness, or stability your presence brings to a room, to a family, to a community is so important. But we were all born with a desire to do something that matters. Not just be loved, not just have a beautiful aura, but to accomplish something.
Well, let me just say that you are. You are accomplishing something.
God has big things ahead for us. I’m fairly confident that whoever you are reading this right now, this includes you. He has much bigger things ahead.
What you are doing now is training ground. It’s building your character. It’s equipping you with skills you probably won’t even recognize until later. Embrace the most difficult, frustrating, humbling moments, because they have the potential to grow your character the most. (And only big character can bear the weight of a big calling.)
But, don’t overlook the intrinsic value of what you’re doing at the moment.
Whether you are discovering the cure for a fatal disease, taking down terrorists, or cleaning toilets, what you are doing matters. If you’re a full-time minister, full-time parent, or full-time student, what you are doing is important. Don’t let yourself miss it. Because if you’ll only open your eyes to see it, you’ll realize that you are quite relevant, right where you are.
Do you ever feel frustrated or confused about what you are doing with your life? How do you handle it? Where do you find meaning in your life? Add your thoughts to the conversation below!
**This is the Part 1 in the series Purpose & Potential.
Part 2: Purpose & Potential: Discerning Your Calling
Part 3: Purpose & Potential: The In-Between
Part 4: Purpose & Potential: Living in Freedom**