Reading this post may cause some of you to roll your eyes. This is because if you are older and wiser than I am and reading about me, still very young and young at heart, freaking out about 27 may feel petty to you. Or you may be younger and roll your eyes and judge me for not being more idealistic.
Let me make this clear: I know I am not old.
But compared to other people I know in seminary who are single and living life, I feel as though I am one of the old farts. And then compared to other people my age, I sometimes feel intimidated, and childish.
It’s a complex swirl of emotions and thoughts. There is really no one way to put it.
Here is one way to see it:
And then there is the matter of owning houses, or just having really sweet lives in the city (whatever city that may be). And the matter of having careers where you feel like you make enough money to travel, go to concerts on a regular basis, eat gourmet foods and fancy beers, running half-marathons, and just living super sweet single lives, as they make your way through the young and professional social sphere. And some of them actually enjoy their day jobs, too.
My best friends have all gotten married between the ages of 22 and 25. When my very best friend Bekah married in 2010, her father-in-law told me that I was next. This was at the rehearsal dinner. I had barely spoken to him before, and he targeted me and told me that. An unhelpful amount of people have told me since turning 24 that my time was coming. Ummm, ok. What time? Will my time have “arrived” when I have gotten married? Settled in a city and job I love? Doing something extremely and intentionally missional with my life? Making mad money to enjoy the finer things in life without feeling guilty and still giving to the poor and to the Church? Having arrived? Being perfect and “having everything”?
25 came and I lost my “grown-up” job (literally the day before my birthday). 26 came and I got into seminary. Now 27 is just on the horizon. And I am a student, again. In a way, I feel like I have traveled back in time. That is common when your life is in constant flux.
Change has been a characteristic of my life the past 2 years. But the past 2 years went by REALLY fast. Change started, and life started to move at hyper speed. As I am getting older, time is speeding up. And all I want is for time to slow down (and for me to speed up).
The past 5 years have been an odd time. A wilderness season. A time where I hungered immensely for God, but simply felt far and away from him. I felt like he did not care about what happened to me, once I reached adulthood. I felt abandoned and that I had to do life on my own.
And yet, I stuck with being faithful to God and to being a Christian all these years, even though I lived out some seasons as a practical agnostic. Fighting the fight of being and feeling alive does not always involve intimacy and feelings of gushiness. There are crags in the road that either brings one through periods of monontous apathy, or periods of freebird indulgence. There have been times of being a leader, and times of being a follower. Times of just needing a baby milk faith, and times where I felt ready and anticipated the meat. There were times of epiphany and times of simply feeling like a blank slate. There have been times of immense disappointment, and times of feeling satisfied and gratified. My insecurity vs. security is an emotional roller coaster– where some days I feel loved and known and understood. Other days I feel oppressed, afflicted, marginalized and on my own. So it hasn’t just been topsy turvy in seasons, but on a day to day basis. Especially this year– there is no one emotion to describe coming in and settling in at seminary. I have been all over the place.
It is bringing me to the place where my hunger for God brings me to times of slowing down and eating from His table. I desire to do that more and more.
I am poor, I am gonna be in student loan debt forever unless I win the lottery or marry rich. I don’t get to do everything that my friends with money get to do. I don’t do everything my married friends get to do (heh. that’s fo’ sho’). But still, I am very rich and blessed.
For some reason (and to borrow words from a tweet I just now saw from Sarah Daubert), I keep thinking that Jesus’ goal for my life is for me to be rich/wise/healthy/pretty/successful. But instead I am poor and needy and anything but self-reliant. Jesus is on the mission of completing his work in me to the far off day of completion. To bring me to a low place where I can lean into him. I can follow him and complete the purposes of proclaiming his Kingdom on earth. That is not necessarily, in my case, in getting married young and having babies. But yet that seems to be the “resolution” that many Christian girls strive for in our culture. But marriage is but a foretaste and resolves nothing.
I am recognizing, actually in my heart and not just in my head, that Jesus has not abandoned me. That he never wanted me to feel like I was super externally beautiful, healthy and prosperous. I feel like I should be there at age 27. And that’s not something that is even a priority. My journey, my slow progression into adult life– is not simply about feeling better about myself (and yes, that is always a concern), but it is about being ripened into being more human, because I am living abundantly within God’s intent.
My friend Kelly (a fellow seminarian and counseling student) took me out for an early birthday dinner last night. She’s turning 27 this year, too. Some of her struggles are similar and some are different but we both feel the burden of growing into our late 20’s. She asked me what I could delight in for turning 27. I thought really hard about it. I thought about being 24 and either judging or being envious of people my age who were in school. As far as I was concerned, you were supposed to grow up, try to get married, and be financially independent. Going back to school was something I longed for, but I thought that God would never bless me with it, because I would need to have all the money first. Well, I came into school broke, and I am gonna leave school even more broke. And I am gonna be better for it.
I am pursuing God’s intent now. Some people settle for jobs they are bored with and then after their kids are grown, then struggle with finding their life’s mission. I was on that road, but God called me out of that. He literally uprooted me. I felt dug out of some kinda security, of consistent community, of settling, to move back home and figure out what was next. That was 2 years ago. What the…
I don’t want to demean people who are living quiet lives, working quiet jobs. Even though my life sounds adventurous, all I do is study most of the time. It is really very quiet, too. Seminary does not equate active ministry. I am getting prepared for it. God feels a little too quiet, sometimes. I have to stand still and listen very intently to hear what he is saying (I need to slow down more often.) I live no kinda better, or more ideal life than anyone else. I just live in more risk and insecurity and humanity than I was previously living and I am on a slow road towards that. Everyone is on his or her own slow journey. Each of us traveling at his or her own pace.
I told Kelly and a few of my friends (who threw me a surprise early bday party) that I feel like I am speeding up by slowing down. Or something like that. It sounded profound in the moment and it made me feel….a little better about turning 27 and not having “figured it out” yet.
At many times, I feel like I am on a slower track than everyone else. I think myself as “The Slow Runner”, who was slow at running the mile in middle school, and even slower at running the adult Christian life. But I realize we are all slow runners, we just realize we don’t have it all down at different times of our lives.
As much as we want our lives to ALL fit into phases and rites of passages- graduate high school, go to 4 year college, get married, be successful, have children, have grandchildren. We don’t all run the track at the same pace, and many skip some of the phases and are all the better, in their own lives, because of it.
Because Jesus is not concerned that we are healthy, wealthy and wise. He is concerned that we are living out the kingdom, proclaiming it, and following him. He is concerned that we live out lives as his children and not as slaves to a system or to our own expectations. That we live out the fullness of our humanity under God’s intent.