Dear Fellow Twentysomething,
I hope this finds you well, full of idealism, and/or traveling the world in search of meaning. Sorry it’s taken me so long to get in touch. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do for the rest of my life, and as you probably know—it sure is keeping me busy. Anyways, I wanted to write you because I feel like we’ve got some major problems. I was on Twitter the other day and read a quote that got me thinking.
We are different than most people older than 30 and younger than the drinking age, and that may not be good.
Our parents and their friends are well aware of our issues. They know we’re bad at following through with things (sorry again for not showing up to your graduation). They know we have a nasty sense of entitlement (I really do think you deserve to be a CEO by now, though). Yet, in spite of this, some of them have faith in us—faith we’ll pull ourselves together and realize the potential housed within us. It’s time to grow up and start acting like adults, they say.
And I guess they have a point.
If we are going to have a fighting chance at being part of moving this world in the right direction, we probably need to change a few things.
First, we’ve got to stop trying to simultaneously strive for both purpose and complete autonomy. I tend get distracted and look to things other than God to validate my identity—primarily myself and how people see me. I want to be the guy with strings unattached, able to pick up and move to some other country at the drop of a hat. Do you ever feel that way, too? But purpose comes as we follow Jesus and love his people, a process requiring fellow travelers and people to depend on.
We’ve got to stop keeping ourselves to ourselves. Vulnerability and community are buzzwords, I know. They often lose their meaning in a slew of Christian jargon (remind me to tell you about my intentional, missional, social-justice-loving small group later). But they’re essential elements to the recipe for healthy, selfless, and servant-hearted lives. So let’s start spending time with other people, being open, honest, and loving towards them.
Second, we’ve got to stop caring so much about our online identities. I hate how much I use the Internet. I hate how easy it is for me to substitute reality for the fake world of status updates and profile pictures. I hate that I see myself as a celebrity, taking far too much time to fine-tune the About Me section of my profiles—wanting so desperately to be perceived as progressive and approachable to the right group of people. I spent way too much time trying to decide if I should like the Coldplay Facebook Page (I didn’t), and it took me the length of an Arrested Development episode to choose which picture from my mission trip to Africa I should use as my avatar.
We’ve got to stop caring about this so much. The Internet is a tool for communication and learning. It isn’t a place to build our egos or turn our souls into a brand. Looking at someone’s profile is not the way to know who they are. Good things certainly come of the Internet, to be sure. But as we stare at screens, we should check the impulse telling us our heads are getting bigger by logging off and serving someone.
Third, we’ve got to start funneling our idealism into hard work. Some of our parents and their friends think our work ethic could use a pep talk, and they’re right. We have a hard time committing to things for longer than fifteen minutes, and building a better future takes more than blueprints. It takes sweat and failure and heartache and joy and time and energy. Most importantly, it takes a perseverance that won’t let us give up when we aren’t feeling happy, in charge, or worthwhile. Let’s choose to put in the necessary hours, realize we aren’t the experts on everything, and start hammering some nails.
Finally, we need to stop trying to be so culturally relevant. I know I clam up in a group that thinks I’m old-fashioned, out-of-touch, or out-of-the-loop. But you know what? God isn’t calling me to be relevant. He is calling me to be obedient. Sometimes those things are synonymous, but most of the time they’re not.
God is calling us to do some incredibly uncool and culturally lame things. Not unloving things, just the type of things that make us the weird guy or the obscure girl. Telling anyone we’re doing anything because we follow Jesus isn’t going to make us the life of (almost) any party with beer pong, no matter how hard we try to get around it. And that’s part of what it means to be a Christian—seeking to make less of us and more of Jesus.
“Cool” is a golden calf for us, and we tend to worship it. The nine-to-five corporate desk job scares us to death, a place we think “cool” goes to die. But God might be calling us to do it. He’s certainly calling us to get off our pedestal and realize He doesn’t really care what we do to make money if we aren’t hurting ourselves or other people. He just wants us to worship Him and love others. For some of us, it’s compensated with a paycheck. But for all of us, it’s in the job description.
I know I didn’t cover everything, and I know the world can be a difficult place to navigate. But I’m getting bored and want to write to someone else.
Blake Mankin, Age 22
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- shine0nlovely said: Amen. If anyone knows what it means to “practice what you preach”, you are it. Without meaning to feed into that ego which is built up by online satisfaction, honestly, keep being an inspiration. xx
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