Purpose & Potential: Caught up in the Millennial Race to Relevance

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 approaching 30, rounding the curve, 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 their mini-crisis. “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.

All apt metaphors for how I felt deep down about my journey toward my life calling: Behind. Stalled. Confused. Anxious. Lost. 

Yet God kept showing me that He didn’t feel any of those things. “You’re right where you’re supposed to be,” He would say. God would appear in my dreams as figures who embraced me with kind smiles, as friends who assured me everything was fine. There was always someone in the dream who was in no rush at all to get wherever I thought I was supposed to go.

Eventually I realized the truth: My view of life was much more closely aligned to the typical secular millennial than God’s.

Realignment

I’ve been undergoing some mindset shifts recently. Shifts away from the current trends towards ancient, 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.
Godly Wisdom: 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, I truly don’t care what most of the world thinks of me, but there are one or two people whose approval I secretly and deeply crave, people who are still 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?

Likely no one. Except God.

I’m constantly learning this lesson, but truly: God’s approval and recognition is enough. And God 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. When that truth truly sinks in, it’s hard for one’s perspective not to shift on a few things.

Millennial Mindset #2: It’s all about fulfilling my potential.
Godly Wisdom: 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 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.

It's easy to jump from feeling special to feeling entitled. Click To Tweet

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 To whom are you being sent?

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.)

God 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. And God says it’s all about love. God says the highest and most important accomplishment is to love. Jesus says that all the Law can be summed up in the command to love God and love one another (Mark 12:29-31).

So who exactly is God calling you to love?

God could have whisked us up to heaven right after we were first saved, but He didn’t, He left us here. Why? Well, there might be some other reasons, too, but primarily to LOVE. Not to build an empire, earn an income, or impress everyone with how amazing we could be, but to LOVE.

So who is God specifically calling you to love? Take a moment and think about it. And then think about it some more. This is one of the most crucial questions we can ponder on a regular basis, because if we lose sight of loving, we have lost sight of the main purpose of our lives. If you find brokenness inside blocking you from giving love, explore that, address it, get healing, learn to love yourself, but don’t let yourself stay in a place of cynicism and selfishness. That simply isn’t the way God created you to thrive.

At the end of your life, God isn’t going to ask for your portfolio or resume. He is going to ask whether you cared for the poor and hungry (Matthew 25:34-40). He is going to ask whether you paid attention to your neighbor, took the time to listen, and reached out your hand to offer what you could.

Millennial Mindset #3: It’s all about the fast track.
Godly Wisdom: The most valuable skills are not developed overnight.

Enough said.

Millennial Mindset #4: Until I find a huge way to impact the world (that is also lucrative and personally fulfilling), I haven’t arrived.
Godly Wisdom: 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 for it, 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.

It may not be the ultimate or biggest thing that you accomplish in your life. It may not be your forever calling. But it is significant.

In addition, not only what you are doing, but what God is doing in you is valuable. Your current assignment may not be flashy, but I’m guessing there is plenty opportunity for character-building and growth. What God cares most about is who we are becoming. Embrace the most difficult, frustrating, humbling moments, because they have the most potential to grow your character.

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.

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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 life? Add your thoughts to the conversation below!

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For more on Purpose & Potential, check out:
Purpose & Potential: Discerning Your Calling
Purpose & Potential: The In-Between
Purpose & Potential: Living in Freedom

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Elizabeth holds to simple faith in a complex world. She values the beauty of the everyday and strives for vulnerability with other imperfect humans. She is currently pursuing her MDiv at Fuller Theological Seminary, so when she isn't busy writing academic papers, she is usually out enjoying the LA sunshine. She is constantly learning, laughing, and finding herself in awe of grace.

5 thoughts on “Purpose & Potential: Caught up in the Millennial Race to Relevance

  1. I loved reading this post! Very eye opening and inspiring. The video was amazing too. I’ll definitely have to share that. And I appreciate the closing words of wisdom “you are quite relevant, right where you are.” Keep doing what you’re doing Elizabeth. I visit your sight often for the encouragement and authenticity you bring in your writing. Be blessed!

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