My generation is a very purpose-driven generation. Most young people my age have extreme passions and dreams that exceed their current situation, gender, race, financial status, etc. We want more than what we are given, but not in the spoiled brat kind of way; we want more in the “I know I need to work hard to get where I need to be and I am going to get there” kind of way. We have so much passion and drive that we will dismiss any conventional ways if they seem too small or trivial. We push for the harder, longer ways in life, so long as our eyes stay on the light, stay on the prize we dream, we crave.
We want more.
At least, I personally want more. I’m sick of meaningless conversations, I’m tired of wondering about the man I’m going to marry, I’m over placing all my energy into my grades, I’m done caring about how many friends I have and what they think of me. And I’m especially tired of spending my time around others who aren’t quite grown up yet.
I’ve always said I don’t want to grow up. But I suppose I should clarify my terms because that statement is still true. I don’t want to worry about money, a house, attending meetings about crap-stuff. I don’t want to grow up to the conventional, boring adult with a 9 to 5 job, a house, a white fence, and 2.5 kids. That doesn’t sound appealing to me at all. I don’t want to grow up and get sucked into a mundane existence, that hangs on the balance of what other couples will say about me if I miss a church service or voice an unpopular opinion, or an opinion at all. I don’t want to grow up to be a tax-paying robot who decided her career in high school and secretly hates her life years later.
I don’t want to grow up because I have seen the fire in grown ups dissipate and fade. I don’t want to grow up because I want my yearning for truth and deep conversation and meaningful relationships built on trust and love to never go away. I want the purpose I feel now, the deep set need to find my calling and exceed it, to stay with me forever. And I fear that growing up, that growing into the perfect adult who’s graduated college, gotten married, obtained a good paying job, and has a baby on the way could take that away from me. I don’t understand people with such potential to change the world, to change their city, to change the heart of their neighbor, who would instead squander their talents and passion based on the criteria society shoved in their face. I don’t understand people who settle.
I almost believe that we’ve switched the terms. We’ve accepted acting without thinking as growing up, and using our imagination as childish. But in my head, these should be the opposite. We should be genuine with others, I want people to be real and vulnerable with me. I want people to share their hopes and dreams without being asked, “Well, how much does it cost?” and “Is that practical?” and “Yeah, that’s nice to dream about, but what are you really going to do?” I want people to be unafraid of the future and instead search out what God has for them and strive for it boldly. I want to be genuinely encouraged and loved, unafraid of being vulnerable. I want authentic love to surround my friendships and relationships. And, honestly, I’m having trouble finding that.
I was talking with a good friend of mine, Kristine, I’ve made here at college about this issue. She told me that she didn’t even want to come back to SPU after spring break because she was having some of the same problems as me. She had missed her friends and dreaded leaving them when spring break ended. She expressed that her friends made God so big, and the others she’d met in college tended to make God so small. Though she had to leave them, she purposed to make God an easy subject, something that came naturally as she spoke with others, whether they believed or not.
I liked that she shared that with me, because I was feeling the same way. At home, it’s so easy for me to talk about God and for others to join in. I can go from a conversation about needing new shoes to God’s sovereignty to “Man, I need more coffee” to Jesus’ killing a fig tree twice, not once, in the New Testament to expressing my love for hot dogs and macaroni back to God somehow. It came naturally, never forced. It was evident, in my friends and family, that God dwelt among us and loved to hear us talk about Him, even if it was as quick as, “I think God is calling me to Ethiopia.” followed by something smaller like “How is school going?” There was always an internal understanding among everyone I came into contact with back home that God was an okay subject, if not the best subject, to bring up whenever the urge came. And those urges came all the time, because we were all madly in love with Him. Even when we weren’t talking about Him, just being together, gathered in His name because of our mutual service to Him, we felt at peace. We felt love and laughter swirl around us, and I personally couldn’t get enough. And because of that little high I was on at home, I honestly didn’t want to come back.
I didn’t want to force smiles and back track my words because someone got tense that I expressed my opinion for a controversial subject and I thought I “needed” them to like me. I didn’t want to be a college student surrounded by other college students who still weren’t sure about who they were (seriously, you were supposed to figure that out in high school). I wanted more than I felt college was offering me. I wanted authentic love and I was angry that I hadn’t found that at my Christian college yet. And I was starting think I wouldn’t find it.
So this became my fear, and it ate at me as my mom drove me to the airport early Sunday morning. It gnawed at my heart as I hugged her goodbye and walked into MCI, trying to focus my energy on finding my gate instead of on the fear that gripped and clawed at my heart. I really didn’t want to go back. I really, really didn’t.
But I couldn’t tell anyone that. I couldn’t even express sadness or wariness. I couldn’t show anyone my fear, I had to pretend I was excited to go back. Too many people have already expressed their disappointment and disapproval at my decision to attend college so far away, in a city plagued with more spiritual warfare than I’d like to think about, by myself. I’ve been living part of my life in a way to prove them wrong. I want them to see that the church building is not God, but that God Himself exists all around us. I want to prove to them that I can do it, that I can go to an unknown place filled with some of the strangest people I’ve ever met in my life and show them that I can be a voice of truth to this city. That I can show God’s love and bring others to Christ and inspire them to think about things differently than the way they’ve been taught. That I could purge the campus and the city of the spirits plaguing it and guide the broken into spiritual healing. That I could stay strong and powerful in Jesus’ name! But when those things didn’t really happen, or at least not in the way I wanted, I began to think I would fail in my endeavor to prove my doubters wrong.
And the fear that I would fail stuck with me, breathing down my neck, never leaving the shadows of my doubt and pride. I pretended it wasn’t there, until Kristine forced it out of me by saying,
“God is so big. And He wants to answer our prayers.”
Granted, she’d picked that up from her passionate friends back home, but that didn’t belittle the truth of it. God wants to answer my prayer. And it was a big one, summarized into: “Take this fear, focus my heart on You, and please, please send me genuine friends.”
God certainly does want to answer our prayers, but sometimes we hand in a suggestion for the answer along with the question. Like, “Okay, God please help me. But do it this way and tell me I’m right and that everyone else is wrong.” God doesn’t work that way and needless to say, I didn’t really like His answer.