I felt old the other night. I hate feeling old. For so long, I’ve just felt eternally in my mid-twenties, but that era is quickly coming to an end.
I think the realization began a few weeks ago. I was studying at Vessel, and I overheard a conversation of two college-aged girls behind me (let’s be honest, I was full-on eavesdropping on the entire conversation … I can’t help it, I’m just really curious about other people’s lives!).
The one girl doing most of the talking was energetic, vivacious, and passionate for the cause of Christ. I could tell she had done Cru (she mentioned Lake Tahoe), and as she talked about her excitement for going anywhere in the world to further the Gospel, I recognized those same feelings that I had had at 22 and 23.
Feelings of boundless optimism. Feeling that God was working in dramatic and clear ways in my life. Feeling like I had the whole world at my fingertips and that everything was a grand adventure.
And now? Well, I wouldn’t say that part of me is gone completely. However, I realize that it has been greatly tempered by reality.
In my bright-eyed young twenties, I really hadn’t experienced any great hardships or difficulties. Life had pretty much gone exactly the way I wanted it to (despite not knowing what to do with my life and waffling between going to college and not going). It was easy to feel that boundless optimism because why not? Things had always worked in my favor in the past.
But as the years continued to pass, I grew a little bit wiser about reality.
When you wake up everyday needing to depend on the strength of God in order to love students who have had unspeakably difficult lives, you’re never the same.
When you get the calls or texts about family members facing health issues, you learn that life is incredibly fleeting, and you would drop anything just to be by their side.
When all the bills are now in your name, you realize the importance of stability and continuity in having a job to pay them.
And yes, going overseas was life-changing and exciting, and yes, I still love traveling and dreaming about the future.
But real life isn’t lived in the airy visions of possible futures. Real life presents itself to you in the messy, in the mundane, and in the commitment of showing up everyday – to provide stability for children in the classroom, to provide a listening ear to a struggling college student, to provide advice and guidance for leadership programs across the country.
Does this mean I don’t believe God is still working in my life in “dramatic and clear ways”? No, not at all. He’s working in my life in stronger ways than ever – but very different from how I used to view it. The ways He works in my life aren’t so clear all the time, but they always display His power.
Sometimes it looks like managing melt-downs and confrontations in the classroom and not knowing if you’re saying the right things, and only at the end of the day, realizing how God is beginning to change you – and your students.
Sometimes it looks like marking days and seasons in your journal, praying each morning, then closing it and walking out the door to do the same thing again … not realizing how you’re growing until a year later when you re-read said journal.
Sometimes it looks like simply sharing life with those God has given to you – and being thankful for every precious moment you get to have with them – because one day, they’ll be gone, and all you’ll have are the memories you chose to make with them.
And learning to stay in one place – to be faithful and committed to your family, to your church family, to your friends, to your teaching community, to your neighborhoods – is sometimes harder than constantly announcing that you’ve bought a plane ticket and you’re going to another new, exciting place. It’s a quiet longevity.
But a quiet longevity that allows you to invest more deeply in the souls around you. Only in staying put can you learn the ins and outs of a person’s life – and minister to them in ways that are revealed over time.
I’ve learned as I get older that tears can come more frequently – because life can be lonely and quiet and exhausting and there’s no one to share the burden with.
I’ve learned that just because I have a dream doesn’t mean that God is required to make it come true.
I’ve learned that my desires are meant to be submitted to God daily, hour by hour – and that He always holds me when my heart overflows.
And I’ve learned that when I do submit them to Him, He usually opens my eyes to see new dreams that I didn’t know existed.
Twenty-two, I’m happy for you. Keep being optimistic. Keep believing in love at first sight. Just know that you probably won’t always feel that way. That most likely something will happen in your life to readjust your expectations – that the reality of life will come along and remove your rose-colored glasses. Don’t be devastated when that happens. Just hold on. God will do something unexpected with your life that you probably won’t be able to see until you’re looking back on it. But just keep trusting in Him.
Because in Christ, there is no rose-colored false hope … there is only the radiance and purity of full-on reassurance – that He is our Savior and Lord no matter what the world throws our way. And through His eyes, the world will be more achingly beautiful than it ever was before.