On one side, there are those who tease me for being older than I look. (Just wait, Ed Stetzer, until I’m 60 and still look 40. We’ll talk then!)
On the other side, there are those who are surprised I’m not older, based on the fact I’m busy in so many things.
Regarding the latter group, I’m surprised people are surprised. Historically, adult landmarks and life accomplishments haven’t been postponed to the thirties.
But it’s true. Many people today have accepted the fact that people “grow up” later. We get married later. We have kids later. (The fact that Corina and I have three kids, with one who will turn 10 tomorrow, isn’t normal nowadays.)
Pundits wring their hands and pastors mourn the state of “perpetual adolescence.” The fact is, many adolescents do too.
I’ll never forget the first time I sat across from a guy who, in tears, confessed, ”I’ve drunk away my twenties.” He wasn’t the first, nor the last, to regret the decisions he’d made in his third decade of life.
So, for the teenagers, college students or twenty-somethings reading this post, I want you to know that your twenties can be a terrific time of life. Do not waste these years.
Culturally, it’s never been easier to slow down growing up. But I’m glad I didn’t take that path, and I hope you won’t either. Looking back, I see my twenties as a sometimes hard, always challenging, ultimately fruitful decade.
Your twenties prepare you for the rest of your life. Here are some random pieces of advice for you in this life stage:
- Read beyond the requirements of college, church, or work. That’s right. Read. Feel free to enjoy video games, movie-watching, or other fun activities, but make sure you are intentional about deepening the well of your spiritual and educational life. You’ll soon discover how much need to draw from that well.
- Build relationships and connections with people who care about similar things. Find people you respect. Learn from them. Walk with people in ministry and learn from their successes and failures. Seek out mentors and listen to them.
- Embrace the big markers of life. If you believe God is calling you to marriage and childbearing, don’t postpone those two things indefinitely. Truth is, no one is ever really “ready” to have a kid. Ever. You’re never “mature” enough or “financially stable” enough to get married or have kids. I actually think, most of the time, the reverse is true. Marriage and kids are often what God uses to grow us up.
- For those who are single by circumstances or by calling, please do not misinterpret the previous word as suggesting that you can’t be mature without marriage or kids. History is filled with examples of Christians whose singleness (whether permanent or temporary) provided the opportunity to channel passion and wisdom into fruitful ministry. Take John Stott’s advice: “Go wherever your gifts will be exploited the most.”
- Future pastors, sermon preparation doesn’t start when you get a ministry position. It’s the result of whole-life preparation. Remember that. And start preparing now. Immerse yourself in the Word and in the lives of people.
- Future missionaries and church leaders, you are on mission now. You don’t need a title, a ministry position, or a seminary degree before you’re on mission. Jesus’ commissioning is all you need to love God, love people, and witness to the truth of the gospel. John Mayer sings ”Waiting On the World To Change.” It did. 2000 years ago when a dead Man walked out of His tomb. So let’s get going.
- When the day arrives and a leadership role is thrust upon you, you’d better be the person you need to be. You can and will do some training, of course, but so much of your role requires you to be a certain kind of person, not just do a certain kind of thing.
- Be willing to serve in the trenches of ministry without praise or acclamation. Serve your church. Work hard at whatever job you’re at. Encourage the people around you. If God chooses to expand your sphere of influence, wonderful. If not, then be the best you can be right where you are.
Friends, if you are entering or still in your twenties, let me exhort you: do not sit these years out. Do not wait on the big job or the amazing ministry you think you deserve. Love God and love people now.
Become the person you want to be in your thirties; prepare for the role you’d like to have, even if, like me, you’re busing tables at Cracker Barrel. You’re not waiting on anyone, and time won’t wait for you either.