"TwentySomeones" Discover Who God Made Them to Be
- Whitney Von Lake Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- Published Mar 19, 2004
When you’re in your 20s, you stand at the crossroads of many vital decisions. What career will you choose? Who will you marry? Where will you live? What church will you join? Potential choices swirl around you during this busy decade, and the quality of your life depends on how well you choose.
The answer to one big question – “Who am I?” – will help you determine how to best answer all the others. Authors Craig Dunham and Doug Serven have written the book TwentySomeone to help people in their 20s find themselves in their decade of transition.
Dunham, the director of programs and marketing for the Glen Eyrie Group (the camping/conference ministry of The Navigators), and Serven, the Reformed University Fellowship campus minister at the University of Oklahoma, recently discussed with Crosswalk.com the importance of living strategically as a “TwentySomeone.”
Discern God’s Voice
Dunham and Serven emphasize the importance of discerning God’s voice filtering through your own desires and pressure from others (such as parents and teachers) as you face key decisions. They write, “The goal isn’t to figure out the kind of person we want to be or the identity we think we should assume, but who it is God has made us to be and how He wants us to be identified.”
The key to doing that is evaluating your experiences, says Dunham. “Discerning God’s voice is very much wrapped in the context of our experiences, which we need to be regularly and intentionally evaluating, because experience is not the best teacher…evaluated experience is. We need to evaluate our experiences through the matrix of his stated means – the Word of God and other people.”
Serven says that listening is a vital part of the process. “As we interact with and listen to what others see in our lives, we better understand ourselves. As we better understand ourselves and how God has uniquely made us, we perhaps better listen to others. It’s a symbiotic relationship. We have the Word, our community, pastors, friends, family and historic Christianity to help guide us along the way.”
Choose the “Biblical Dream” over the “American Dream”
Too often, the authors say, young adults set out to pursue the “American Dream” of material success when they should be pursuing the “Biblical Dream” of spiritual growth. “God calls us to be defined by Him, not by the things the world says are important,” they write.
Deciding to pursue God’s values over those of the world is important to do while you’re establishing your lifestyle, says Serven. “It’s in your 20s that you set the patterns and appetites for things, jobs, paychecks, titles, vacations, etc. As you increase your standard of living, it is harder and harder to go back to a simpler lifestyle. The time to decide and live by what you decide is earlier rather than later.”
Cultivate a Fruitful Life
Reconnecting with your God-given creativity will help you discover your unique calling in life, they write. Everyone is creative, and God intends for each person to use their creativity in whatever field they find themselves, contributing their talents to the world. But often, it takes awhile to see the fruit of your efforts – especially when you’re just starting out in your career, your marriage and other important areas of life.
It’s helpful to remember that God wants to develop your faithfulness before He increases your fruitfulness, Dunham says. “According to Luke 16:10, ‘He who is faithful with very little will be faithful will much.’ … Supposed ‘fruitless chores’ can be tremendous growth opportunities if we remember that God is working on our character in the midst of them.”
God uses everything in your life to shape you as a person, says Serven. “God uses the little things in your life to develop who you are and who you will become. You are becoming that person now. You must take seriously your commitments, your disciplines, your passions, your sins, your spheres now or else you will be as equally unconcerned and unreflective later.”
Develop Habits for a Lifetime
Spiritual disciplines like daily prayer and Bible reading will go a long way toward helping your life bear fruit, say Serven and Dunham. Dunham explains, “Frankly, in our 20s is when we have the best shot of establishing spiritual disciplines because (and most twenty-somethings can’t believe this until later because they think they’re so busy) we usually have the most time and least amount of distraction in our lives because we may not be married or have kids yet. A friend of mine says that if you choose to be about the Scriptures in the 20s – studying them, memorizing them, learning to handle them – you can minister with greater capacity for the rest of your life.”
Participate in Community
Too often, the authors write, “TwentySomeones” skip around from place to place, avoiding commitments to their relationships, jobs, churches and other aspects of their lives. “It’s easy in our 20s to play around with the idea of commitments and community and not really take them seriously, but time eventually brings us to a point of decision as to whether or not we’re going to choose to mature,” Dunham says. “I know people 30, 40, even 50 years old who still act like they’re 21 because they’ve never stuck with anyone in their lives, whether it was a spouse, kids, friends, or a church. It’s sad, because they have – or at least I imagine they must have – all these questions of ‘now what?’ and ‘with whom?’”
God wants people to invest in the places where He has set them, says Serven. “God created us to need community. We are not just individuals; we are a people joined together by family, church and living life together. We may live in the woods of Montana or in downtown Boston, but we’re in this together.”
It’s important to choose your friends carefully rather than just falling into a particular network, explain Dunham and Serven. “1 Corinthians 15:33 says, ‘Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good behavior.’”
Dunham notes: “I would say, especially in our 21st century culture when we are the most biblically-illiterate we’ve been since the Dark Ages, who we are around is as important as any one factor as to how we make decisions and process life. Who has your best interests in mind? Your true friends will, but it takes some work seeking out who those true friends are, especially when relationships can become so shallow these days because of our fast-paced culture and the myth of intimate connection via the Internet.”
Many people in their 20s find it hard to trust others because of the hurt they suffered growing up. If you’re one of them, the authors say, don’t be afraid to seek God’s healing so you can enjoy healthy relationships with other people.
“Talk to people,” Serven says. “A Christian counselor. A pastor or elder or wife of one of those in your church. Your friends. Write a letter that expresses your feelings. Write a letter to God. Write one from Him to you. Feel the pain and then you may be able to forgive the pain and pursue healing. Just covering it up does no good. It will come out later.
Let Time Teach You
Discovering who you are takes time. But, like others in their 20s, you may be feeling pressure to have your life completely and tidily figured out before you hit 30 – or even 25. Don’t be afraid to take all the time you need to take before making an important decision, the authors say, remembering that each decision – good or bad – can serve as a valuable learning experience. Be willing to learn from history and older people as well.
In time, life’s disappointments may overtake your youthful idealism. But even when your circumstances don’t turn out the way you’d dreamed (such as not finding a job in your field after graduating from college), you can still grow in the ways that matter most to God. “Life doesn’t always go the way we want it to,” says Serven. “… Our disappointments are opportunities to trust in the gospel in a different way than we have before. And we should continue striving with zeal to extend the Kingdom of God and not settle for a boring, disappointing life.”
Dunham adds, “One word – and this is spoken from the chief of sinners in this area – relax. When I talk with twenty-somethings, this is probably the one word I end up using the most, just because they have allowed their culture, their parents, their career path, or themselves to dictate where they should be in life by now. A lot of times this kind of progress is just not realistic. … faithfulness in the midst of the struggle is what God desires to build in us, and that process usually tends to happen when life doesn’t make sense.”
It’s particularly important for singles to pursue contentment, write Serven and Dunham, because they should try to wait for “the Right Person in the Right Way at the Right Time.”
Serven says, “If you are currently single, then God has called you right now to be single. You must learn to be content in that and be the best single person you can be, realizing that getting married won’t ‘make me happy.’ It will change you, but you will have new problems, new things you need to repent of. You should be seeking to develop friendships based on common theology, callings, and interest and pray that God would lead you into a relationship with someone who can be your best friend.”
Start to Build your Legacy
In your 20s, you’ll often feel pressure to impress others in order to get ahead in the world. But, as the authors write, “What institutions think of us isn’t nearly as important as what Jesus thinks of us.”
Dunham says it’s never too early to consider your legacy. “When we’re young, we tend to feel particularly invincible, largely because our culture tries to hide death and deny the fact that it’s coming. As a result, many people in their 20s live life with only a wandering sense of urgency and an occasional haunting fear of what lies beyond. Rethinking accomplishment and success in our 20s is vital to our learning to live strategically. Now – when we can still do something about it – is when we should be thinking about what our lives will mean in our deaths. Death is life’s great perspective-bringer.”
Adjusting your goals with your legacy in mind can keep you focused on what matters most, says Serven. “Your short-term goals need to fit into your long-term ones. You are becoming who you will be known for. What will you leave behind? Who will be glad you were here when you’re gone?”
For additional resources and information on TwentySomeone, please visit www.twentysomeone.com