These past few months have been a season of God asking me to be a part of the foundations of some big dreams. Events, new ministries, new developments at work…the list is varied but each item has one thing in common- I’m working with people for a goal bigger than ourselves. And today, as I headed into yet another meeting to pour the cement for some of these foundations…God did a number on me. A pile of junk I didn’t even know I’d been carrying around came crashing down in front of me. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit was doing divine surgery…lovingly pointing out areas where I am less effective…issues that hold me back…faults that prevent me from taking any ground in the first place.
I walked into the meeting puffy eyed and emotionally drained. Not because of the conflict we were confronting or the hard issues we were there to hash out, but because I was painfully aware of the ways I was hindering the processes.
You see, I’m a 20-something. As much as I like to think I’m above it, as much as I hope I’m more mature than what that title means…I fall in the trap. I’m entitled. I’m fickle. I’m quick to jump ship when the going gets tough. I’m 20-something and no matter how hard I try, I’m a product of my generation. The faults I see in the rest of my generation are my faults too. The shortcomings of young adults are my shortcomings. And they suck. And I can see why people have such a hard time working with us.
So in the interest of making things easier on you, in the interest of saying the things young adult leaders can’t say about their flock without being called nasty….here are the things you need to know if you ever plan on leading me anywhere.
I am going to want to quit.
We’ve all heard it before; we all know it’s true. We’re a generation that gets fired up about something but lacks the follow through.
I’ve noticed these last few years that the second God starts to call me towards something big or scary or new…I want to run away. For a moment I might get fired up and excited and tweet about my new fun mission field. But after the shiny-ness wears off, I’m ready to call it quits. Fight or flight? I’m already booking my plane ticket. No, literally. I want to leave the country. Ministry would be easier elsewhere, I believe. I’m more effective away from here, I start to think. This is the devil’s easiest tool with me. Tell me I must leave to make a difference. Why is it so easy?
Because I’ve rarely done something on my own, and the thought of starting scares me. My parents were the generation that defined the term helicopter parents….hovering over every life stage. When homework was due, they were the one to remind me. When I wasn’t playing the position I wanted to in soccer, they were the ones telling the coach something needed to change. When I needed to figure out how to pay for college they filled out the loan paperwork. Most of us have made it this far in life without doing much of anything for ourselves. The first time I paid bills on my own I was 22. And even then it was a slow thing coming. First my extra expenses, then my electricity, and not until I was 24 was I paying for my own car insurance.
Compared to my peers, I like to think I stand ahead of the curve in this regard because I have great credit and live a nice yet modest life. But the reality is most of that was put in my lap and I’m just as incapable of being responsible for things as the next 20 something. I ended up with a warrant because I couldn’t find the time to pay a traffic ticket. I call my mom for instructions on how to heat things up in the stove. I wait till my Dad visits to hang pictures. Really.
I don’t know how to do things on my own and new responsibilities scare me. Just as I do with bills I shut down with ministry opportunities. These last few years God has done a work in me to demand more. But I’d be lying if I said that first time I took a team to Haiti I didn’t doubt myself every step of the way.
But even if the good Lord get’s me past that initial inability to start something, you out to know that…
I’m going to want to quit, again.
Why? I don’t know how to fight for things.
I am the generation that grew up being told “if you try hard enough you can do anything you set your heart to.” Theologically, that might be correct if we add “that God wills” somewhere in that sentence, or perhaps even “through the power of the cross”….but as far as a life motto goes, it falls flat. I can still remember the first time I realized this wasn’t true. I was in high school and put my EVERYTHING into trying out for drum major of my band (don’t judge, it’s what I was into then). I mean everything. I got friends to practice with me as I conducted and shouted out marching patterns. I had the current drum major give me techniques. I practiced in front of a camera and my family. I prepared for weeks and when the time came….they picked someone else. I was crushed. This didn’t add up. I thought if I tried hard enough, if I set my heart to it, if I worked and worked and worked, I’d get what I deserved.
I was defeated. I cried for a solid 2 days. My friend Holly can attest to that; she spent the night afterwards and was probably wondering what in the world my problem was.
But my world view had come crashing down, that’s what the problem was. What I’d been told all along from parents, teachers, coaches, and our culture didn’t add up to the reality I was seeing in front of me.
I still fight this beast today. I’m not naïve enough to still think the world is “fair”, but sometimes I am still shocked to find out that my “hard work” wasn’t enough. And because I often got participation ribbons in anything I competed in, I don’t know what it looks like to push through that original disappointment towards the end goal that matters. And if you read closely you might have noticed that the nasty “e” word has started to rear its ugly head. That’s right, not only do I not know how to fight for things, but I’m entitled. I think I deserve things if I put in whatever I deem as a valiant enough effort.
But maybe you’re really good at casting a vision and think that you can help me through those original roadblocks. You still ought to know that…
I am really really going to want to quit, again.
This time something new and shiny is to blame. Thanks to Eureka’s Castle and Sesame Street I grew up with the attention span of a Cocker Spaniel. Thanks to Friends and Boy Meets World and Saved By the Bell, it grew to 9 minute segments. But even now that I’ve kicked the TV habit, my iPhone is to blame for my inability to focus in on one thing at a time. So if you’re lucky, you might be able to get me to focus on something for 20 minutes. And I can guarantee that during those 20 minutes I know exactly what’s going on with my friends via Facebook and current world events via Twitter.
So you can only imagine the nightmare that occurs when you’re trying to lead me somewhere that requires a lasting, consistent, continuous effort. Chances are even if I make it past the initial fear of spear heading something on my own, and the inevitable roadblocks early on, I’ll get distracted by some other effort that I think will be easier, bigger, and better in the meantime. Before we’ve even started, I’ve shot us in the foot by giving up.
So what do you do with me?
Coddle me? Give me allowances? Belittle the tasks at hand so I can swallow them one by one?
Like all other things, the answer to this conundrum is the Gospel.
You introduce me to Jesus and you wait as He conforms me to His image. You demand more for me and from me. You don’t allow me to stay in the filth of what I’ve been programmed to do. You show me how to read my bible. You treat me like the adult I should be. You pray like crazy. You are patient when I’m struggling. And you trust the Holy Spirit to do His mighty work like He did for me today.
Fret not, friend. There is good news in my overly self-aware, dramatically self-deprecating rant. And it is this: there’s big potential in this irresponsible, uncommitted, inconsistent generation of mine. It’s no wonder the enemy has tried to cripple us so. You trying to lead us somewhere matters. And as soon as we kick these bad habits, this world is sure to change. Just give us some grace and smile at us lovingly when we walk into your office with puffy eyes and slumped shoulders. He’s working on us.