I was twenty-two, newly married, and learning what ministry looked like to a group of teenagers who weren’t sure they wanted us to be their new pastors. When change happens and you’ve loved your leader, the new person has to work ten times harder to earn your trust and affection. Eventually, you win their hearts and they win yours. The truth is, you never really get it back. They become part of your story and you become a really big part of theirs.
I guess you could say I had my first ministry “girl fight.” Someone misunderstood my humor because she didn’t know me yet and I misunderstood her teenage-sharp tongue from living in a very unsteady home. Words were hurled at me, I cried. She cried. We made up. I still cried. But, when I walked out of the room as a red-faced, young Youth Pastor’s wife an older lady, whom I admired greatly said, “It’s hard having to grow up, isn’t it?”
I nodded, then pulled myself together. And, for the next five or so years, I pulled myself together and did the hard work of growing up.
Looking back I see an insecure twenty-something busting her derriere to measure up, work hard, and love people well. Did she try too hard? Every. Dang. Day. But today I find myself looking back on this season in the hopes that somehow I can help you move forward, or just understand a small part of what is happening to you now. You’re not crazy.
You won’t always feel like a mess. You will find your natural tendency and default setting to second-guess every decision you make fade into the background of your twenties and you will settle into the skin you feel like you don’t fit in, hopefully, by the time you reach your thirties.
I mentor not for life, not for just a season, so many of the students who were under my leadership in my twenties and thirties are now in college or newly married, and some have babies of their own now. Recently I have prayed and have spoken with a few twenty-somethings, looked into their eyes, and saw so many questions whirling around in their heads and hearts. God laid a message on my heart to share with them and for a generation trying to find their footing.
The vivid picture I had when I prayed for someone recently was the archer with his bow and arrow.
Everyone speaks of being “launched” and getting to that next level in life. But, right now you don’t like how you feel because you thought you would be further along and have life mostly figured out. Whether it’s a transition in schooling, or a leap of faith uprooting everything you’ve ever known to move and follow your dreams, this chasing and testing your “adulting” skills has left you more confused than ever. The brutal truth is sometimes we feel further away from our dreams and God-given potential than closer to it. Finding your new normal looks a lot like taking the job that bores you to tears while you daydream of “what’s next” wishing away your “right now.” You have time to reach those lofty goals so try to chill.
This feeling is normal. Feeling like you are wasting time is normal. Looking at your friends saying “I do” and feeling left out is normal. This time of questioning everything and overthinking everything is normal. It’s hard work growing up. This time in your life is about finding God’s plan for your life and taking the next obedient step. But, late at night, you will beat yourself up for not having it all figured out. Gosh, I get you.
We have this picture in our mind of where we are “supposed” to be or what we thought we would be doing. In our twenties, there is an unsettled disappointment that lingers in the air when your life looks nothing like that huge dream in your heart. That holy unrest is strategically tied to the stretching place where Miss Independent wants her Momma and would give anything to have her tell her exactly what to do. But, this is up to you. Seek godly counsel and listen to them, call your Mom crying, seriously it always helps. I’m forty and I still need my Momma. Somehow try to understand that she’s been trying to let you go for a really long time because she wants more for you than you could possibly understand. You are the arrow she placed in the hands of God. Your Momma already learned how to surrender, now it’s your turn.
“Like arrows in the hands of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.” Psalm 127:4
You are the arrow. We are the arrow.
In the stages of archery, the warrior takes a stance, the elbow rotation is on point and skillful, the hook and finger position on the bowstring is critical, and the anchor point is aligned- which is a spot on your face and so intimate- is like a signal that the warrior is ready. Skillfully the warrior follows through, then they let go and the arrow is launched.
The thing about being arrows is this- we feel so completely out of control during our launching period. The mark and target has already been determined. We make plans, but God orders our steps. And yet, the control-freak inside of all of us wants to be in control. We want to be the archer instead of the arrow but our sight is so limited. I would love to tell you the control freak part gets easier as you become older…um, it doesn’t. Sorry bout that.
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Prov 16:9
Fear surfaces in our hearts as we wonder if we are moving in the opposite direction of where God wants to send us. We feel further from our dreams than ever and feel the spark inside of us fading into the lameness of adulthood. We work those disappointing jobs and punch the clock knowing that this isn’t exactly what we had in mind. But, I can guarantee you this is part of the plan because you have to start somewhere…even if you don’t like where that “somewhere” is right now.
There’s a pulling back before the arrow is launched. This is why you feel like you are taking huge steps backward instead of forward. There is a detailed stretching and positioning- that pulling back is critical. If you get that wrong, you get everything wrong. If we are the arrows, we have to trust the archer. His plan is to hit the mark. To be on target we have to line up with his will for our lives, walking in truth, and living differently from the world.
You feel stuck right now, don’t you? It’s because the stance is correct, the finger hold is precise, the anchor point and everything else is where it needs except for the position of our hearts. We have to be fully surrendered in this moment or we will remain stuck. We cannot move from that place until our hearts have meshed with our Maker’s and we have placed our faith in God above all else.
“In archery, the hitter and the hit are no longer two opposing objects, but are one reality.” ~Eugen Herrigel
How are we launched? When are we launched? It’s different in every season, but the technique is the same. You will always be stuck until you are fully surrendered.
Fundamentally the marksman aims at himself and may even succeed in hitting himself. ~Eugen Herrigel
When you feel stuck. Wait. This is not a passive waiting. It is a bold decision to trust God and to seek His face in your waiting more than you are seeking a plan or the next step.
Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. (Psalm 37:7)
You are unfinished. You always will be until your last breath. When we realize that His plan is better than our plan, we stop fighting with our Maker and trust in the unseen.
“Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker– An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’? (Isaiah 45:9)
“For our light and temporary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor 4:17-18)
Be teachable and moldable. It’s the most peaceful place to be when you trust in the God who is still making you into his likeness.
But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)
Have faith that God has blessings in store for you that begins the moment you start seeking Him more than seeking what you want and temporary fulfillment.
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
You are not moving backward, you are being positioned. There’s a difference. I believe in you so much, I want nothing more than to see you crush it in life and hit the target God has for you. So…you feel like a hot mess…welcome to adulting. It’s a lot like being pistol whipped by a hormonal hurricane that makes you feel (and act) like you are
the spawn of Satan ’bout to lose your mind. You are going to cry a lot, but you’ll laugh about it later. I pinkie-swear. You are really going to love the forty-something version of you.
Cheering for you, fighting for you, and praying for you. May this be a season of surrender and seeking God like never before.
Love you fiercely,