It was a dark and stormy night, and… okay, it wasn’t, actually. But I was in just as much danger as the characters in those cheesy stories. I just didn’t know it.
Until I called my father-in-law.
I was a young dad, trying to install some shelving in my daughter’s room. The only problem is that I was attempting to cut through the metal shelving with a blade designed for wood. And it wasn’t going well.
When I asked my (very handy) father-in-law what he thought about my ‘plan’, he nearly had a heart attack. After telling me I was lucky to have all my limbs, he walked me through the right way to do it.
But that conversation was a defining moment for me. In a whole new way, the thought dawned on me: ‘I don’t know what I don’t know… and that could hurt me and people I care about. I wonder what else I don’t know…’
A Need For Mentoring, A New Series Of Posts
Truth is, we don’t know a lot – and that’s why we need mentors. Older, wiser people who have gone before us and can fill in the gaps. In this new, occasional series, I’d like to share some of the things that I didn’t know in the hope that it will benefit you.
I’ll plan on grouping the posts by decade, and call upon some of my older, wiser friends to weigh in on lessons for our forties and fifties.
Today, let’s start with our twenties.
A Quick, Probably Unfair, Profile Of Twenty-Somethings
I’m assuming that a fair number of these things are, or will be, true for you in your twenties. You’ll probably:
- finish college, and quite possibly go to grad school
- get your first ‘real job’
- get married or at least think about heading in that direction
- take a deeper ownership of your relationship with the Lord, and, the kind of person you’ll be
Obviously, that description isn’t going to fit all of you. For example, not everyone gets married in their twenties, and some careers (like medicine) often have training processes that don’t fully end until you’re in your thirties. Hopefully, though, it’s close enough to be helpful.
Seven Life Lessons For Your Twenties
So, what might you miss in your twenties? Looking back, here are 7 things I didn’t really appreciate at the time.
1.Your education and formal training matter, but not as much as you think they do. Sure, God calls us to work hard (Colossians 3:23), but what you learn in the classroom is just part of a much bigger picture. Your GPA may open some doors, and close others, but at the end of the day the people you serve want you to be competent and care.
2. You’re not as far behind as you fear. It’s so easy to feel like ‘everyone else’ is more qualified, intelligent, and further ahead than you are. Truth is, though, that you’re usually seeing the edited, Facebook version of others’ lives. The realities of our sin and living in a fallen world mean that your peers, in general, aren’t all that far ahead of (or behind) you. So take a deep breath – and a study break.
3. The gap between you and your mentors is a lot smaller than you think. And, the gap between them and Jesus is infinitely greater. When we realize that there is no one like God (Jeremiah 10:6), we are free to rest and become who God wants us to be. And, free to get close enough to our mentors that we can truly learn from them.
4. What you’re going through is hard, but it’s not that hard. Don’t get me wrong: a few of you have experienced tragic loss or great hardship. And the next exam or deadline at work is hard. In reality, though, God has shielded many (first-world) twenty-somethings from real suffering and obstacles. This is a gift and mercy you don’t need to apologize for. But understanding harder days lie ahead should lead to gratitude and perspective now.
5. Choose your spouse wisely. Chances are most of you will get married in your twenties (average: 29 for men, 27 for women). I hit the jackpot when I married Sharon, but as we age we’re struck by how often it doesn’t go very well. (Christians included.) You can never quite predict the future, but, knowing what to look for in a godly spouse gives you a great chance at making a good decision. And passages like Proverbs 31, Psalm 15, and 1 Timothy 3:1-13 are much more insightful than someone’s appearance, income or the interest in outdoor activities you share.
6. Life and joy are found most deeply in giving. It may not always feel like it, but you’ll never have this much disposable time again, at least until you retire. It’s a gift from God, and I hope you use some of it (for example) to take weekend trips to NYC, eat out with friends and whatever else you love to do. Looking back, I was kind of self-centered and didn’t balance my schoolwork and other interests with serving others as much as I could have. But Jesus was right: ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35).
7. Put God, not yourself, at the center of your story. Our culture tells young people something like this: if you work hard, you can be anything you want to be. Get good grades and build your resume so you can get into a good school(s), get a good job, make lots of money and have the kind of life you want. It’s not all bad, but it puts ‘you’ at the center of the story, where God never meant us to be. Because of that, ironically this narrative leads us to boredom and dissatisfaction. The greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38) offers a much harder, but exciting, life.
In summary, God invites twenty-somethings (and all of us, really) to ‘remember also [our] Creator in the days of [our] youth’ (Ecclesiastes 12:1). Building our lives around the Lord, and serving others, will give our days their very highest purpose and satisfaction.
Which of the above lessons would be most helpful to you right now? How can you practically begin to apply it in your life?