The Freedom in Being Twenty-three
There is this unresolved tension in the life of early twenty-somethings. On the one hand, we are young, hopeful, adventure seeking individuals who desire influence and purpose among our peers. We dream and aspire to create. The possibilities are endless, and we feel as though the world is at our fingertips. While, on the other hand, we are faced with a menacing reality that seems plain and ordinary. Feeling as though we settled in our passions – that we gave way to passivity and safety. Maybe feelings of dreams being one in a million and slowly getting lost in the busyness of life. We question whether our burdens are God-given or inflicted by man-made competition. The “immeasurably more” God has promised (Eph 3:20) takes a tone of hyperbole, because the waiting has left us wandering. Let me assure you, you are the farthest thing from alone.
Our generation is fed the perception that we must have life figured out by the time we graduate from college. It starts in high school with part-time jobs to gain independence, seeps its way to college where we are consumed with volunteering and internships to add to resumes, and ends with a college graduate still not knowing what he/she wants to do when they grow up - wanting to change the world, but instead yields to a 9-5 job that hardly motivates one to get out of bed in the morning.
Now, more than ever, do I see a yearning in our culture for immediate gratification. We want to skip over time and the waiting process and receive the outcome right away. In jobs. In relationships. In food. In exercise. In clothes. In our spiritual lives. You name it, we want it now.
We want the blessing and reward God promised that comes from our obedience now.
We sow once, expecting the harvest instantly.
We want to live out our calling now.
Oh, the times I've been there. More so now than ever before. I've fallen into the trap of believing if I'm not doing what I've been called to do at twenty-three (someone who is supposed to be finished with undergrad & accepted a full-time job) I've failed, disrupted God's plan for my life, or might have even misheard God.
So, what is our natural response? We cling to what is attainable. We don't trust God's timing so we move on without Him.
Getting ahead of God is not only destructive in the long run, but provokes an arrogant posture that holds up a hand in front of His face saying, "I can do this better (and quicker) on my own. Watch me. Then bless me."
Oh, Jesus, save us from that dangerous position.
In the midst of those thoughts, I'm comforted in David's story.
David reigned as Israel's king for forty years. That's pretty impressive, wouldn't you say? One of the most fascinating things about David's life to me was the length of time between his anointing and his appointing to be king. He was chosen by God to be king around the ages of 10-13 (1 Samuel 16). Can you imagine? But he did not serve as king until about 20 years later, recorded in 2 Samuel 5.
1 Samuel 16:18 reads, "One of the young men answered, 'Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the Lord is with him.'"
Some key elements of David's character between his anointment and his appointment that would do well for us to examine:
David was submissive to authority. He respected Saul as king and lowered himself to a servant's role. Speaking to Saul, David asserts, "...but my hand shall not be against you." (1 Sam. 24:12). He also was submissive to his father, Jesse. When asked to take food to his brothers in battle against Goliath, he went without hesitation or question.
David did not neglect his work. "but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem." (1 Sam. 16:15b) He did not become lazy in his current position because of what was to come. He remained diligent and steadfast to the work that was before him.
David spoke with confidence in the Lord. "...but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand..." (1 Sam. 17:45-46). He never doubted that God was bigger than whatever he faced - 9 ft. giant Goliath or a power-tripped, jealous Saul.
David remained relentlessly faithful to the Lord in those twenty years. He did not idly sit back and wait for his time. He was actively involved in what God wanted to do before he was involved in his calling.
He knew his calling. He was so confident in it that his in-between years left him far from wandering. He trusted the Lord's anointment in his early years to live out the appointment in his later years. In the meantime, he prepared by worshiping, obeying, and waiting faithfully and humbly to enter his calling. And people took notice, speaking of his reputable nature - Saul's servant in the latter half of 1 Samuel 16 and Jonathan, Saul's son.
I believe this is the kind of thing God is inviting us to be actively involved in. The kind of thing where all we can do is look up, gaze upon His beauty, and worship in full acknowledgement that He is good, He is faithful, and I can trust Him. The quickest way the enemy can distract us from worshiping Jesus is to get us worshiping our calling and the time it takes to fulfill it. Worship is our weapon to fight against that.
"You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus... No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hardworking farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops." 2 Timothy 2:1, 4-6
Do we trust God that much? Do we believe He sets within us dreams that are only achievable through His Spirit? Are we willingly to wait 20 years to enter into it? Or are we going to settle for what is attainable at the moment?
For so long I circled this idea that where I was at the present time was ultimate. I was so deeply embedded in this idea that even after I was removed from it, the only thing I knew to do was to keep running back. Almost like forcing the wrong piece into the puzzle. It wasn't working. It wasn't a bad thing - it was a good, even Godly thing, but I had confused what I wanted for what God had purposed to come from it. I was bent on that job being the pinnacle of all God wanted me to do, when it was intended to serve as a launching pad toward something greater.
I can look back and see grounding, while looking ahead I see flourishing. The in-between is actually where the freedom lies. We get to rest in God's assurance. We get to lean into the promises He has made with us. We get to learn to love Him intimately and know Him deeply. And then watch Him breathe life into that which we've longed for.
Fellow twenty-something friends, I urge you to remain steadfast, humble, and bold, believing God in the gift and the gospel He has entrusted to you. Carry it well even when it seems to not be carrying you. What you've been called to may not even exist yet. It literally might not have a name. Not one drop of rain had landed on earth when Noah was building the ark. People didn't comprehend what he was doing, because they had no prior knowledge or experience of water falling from the sky. Yet, he remained faithful in the face of a lot of confusion, and then God did what had never been done. Give your young twenty-something self grace.
There is freedom in trusting a sovereign God with your burdens, dreams, and callings. There is freedom in not totally understanding how to discern all that is bouncing off the walls of your heart. And there is freedom that comes in knowing you don't have to have done everything you want to do before you are thirty. Let's face it, that's when David was just getting started.