Today is the end of an era. My last day in my 20s. Tomorrow, I’m officially old. (All the teenage readers are agreeing. All the 40+ readers are saying “You think 30 is old?! Yeah right, ya whippersnapper!”…or something along those lines)
I actually have no problem turning 30. In my line of work as a church planter, being out of your 20s is a big plus. Not many 50+ folks want a senior pastor who is 23 and whom they have children older than. I used to grow a goatee to try to make myself look older. You can imagine how successful that was.
I think in a lot of ways our culture worships the 20s age decade. The majority of women’s beauty products are designed to get you to look like you’re still in your 20s, the majority of health products are designed to make you feel like you’re still in your 20s, and the majority of alcohol companies market their products trying to get you to party like you did when you were in your 20s.
In reality though, I think someone’s 20s are an extremely difficult 10 years of life. I don’t have the medical facts off the top of my head, but I know that it’s in your 20s when depression is most commonly diagnosed, and it’s also when other serious mental health disorders appear seemingly randomly for the first time.
This was the case for me, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to us. We go through our teenage years thinking we will be in high school forever. College is stressful but it’s different than “I have a mortgage and family to provide for” and “things haven’t panned out like I thought they would” type of stressful. For many, myself definitely included, college is the best time of their life. My memories of collegearen’t the long papers and the arduous track and cross country practices, they are of endlessly playing Madden 2002 with my best friends (and forcing each other to skip class and play our game so we could all move on to the next week of our season), playing intramural football, and hanging out with my friends from the track and cross country team. College was a time of intensive community where I blossomed as an individual and was the most secure I had ever been in myself.
Then real life.
And I’m not one to take small bites. After graduating college a year early, I got hired as a youth pastor, moved from Grand Rapids to Lansing, and got married. A pretty big jump from playing endless games of Madden video games.
Depression symptoms first hit me when I planted my church at the age of 23. A church that I was under the impression would launch with 150 people by our 2nd Sunday.
We had 18.
In short, the stress was more than I could handle. Eventually I sought out some help and found out I had clinical depression.
As I look back on my 20s, I see two themes I am very proud of and is the advice I leave for my readers: Persevere and Don’t Waste Your Life.
In American culture, the decade of our 20s has become like an extended adolescence that people waste on video games, premarital sex, booze, and a myriad of other means of instant gratification. While it’s not a huge surprise people look to these quick releases for relief from the stress of real life hitting them for the first time, it’s sad that so many waste such a precious decade of their lives on nothing. I’m only 30 but I’m well aware that life is short. And eternity is long. My parents are in their 60s now. That’s kind of scary, and also very sobering. When I stand before God someday, I want to be able tell him I didn’t waste a single year of my life, let alone an entire decade. I can look back on my 20s with joy and see people who have put their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior because God used my life to impact theirs. I wouldn’t trade that in a million years for all the instant gratification you could imagine.
And finally, I can look back and say how grateful I am I didn’t give up on my church plant and most importantly, on my marriage. Both are commitments I made, both have had some very difficult seasons where I’ve wanted to give up. Both times I went to God and asked him to show me what needed to be fixed inside of me. He showed me. I gave him permission to grow me in these areas. And I’m much stronger because of it. My wife Jen is incredible and our marriage is the strongest it’s ever been. Crossroads is in an amazing place of health and I’m so excited for our next chapter.
I’m certainly not perfect and I haven’t arrived, but I look forward to my next decade, knowing the investment of my previous one has set the tone for the next leg of an exciting adventure with my Creator and Savior that I wouldn’t trade for anything this world could offer me.