By: Shannon Vandewarker, Guest Author
As students enter into the post-High School and College-age years, an exciting but often stress inducing shift takes place. Becoming an adult and figuring out life on your own can be exhilarating and spontaneous. But it also has the potential to be lived very intentionally. As you or your son or daughter are entering into this stage of their twenties, here are four guiding principles which can help them live intentionally into who God is calling them to be.
Value #1: Exploration
Our society has done twenty somethings a disservice by placing on them the myth that when they graduate college or trade school or whatever program they’ve gone through after high school, that they should know exactly who they are, what they are to do, and have life totally figured out. But so much of your twenty’s will be spent exploring, whether it’s intentional or not.
Instead of the outlook of having ARRIVED or needing to have ARRIVED at a certain age or stage, exploration is all about BECOMING. I love Paul’s encouragement in the letter to the Philippians that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
In our faith it’s clear we don’t arrive, but Christ is always about the work of becoming. Thus, your twenties can be a time of exploration. This doesn’t mean you need to flounder aimlessly, but that you can have a purposeful time living with the mindset of exploration. Galatians 6:4 says this in The Message paraphrase: “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you’ve been given, and then sink yourself into that.” Even Paul was giving out this advice, that exploring who you are and the things that make you tick, are completely of the Lord. We were created to be curious, so get out there and explore the world.
Parents of college and post-college aged young adults-
You have the opportunity during this time to be a cheerleader of your young adults. Point out to them interests they’ve maybe always had, but never fully explored. Share with them the things you think they are really good at, where they might have a knack for something unique, and encourage them that way.
College and Post-College Aged Students-
So many twenty-somethings go in two directions: 1. Full force into adult responsibilities, which tie them too down, so they don’t have the bandwidth to explore OR 2. They seem to flounder aimlessly through their twenties not really living on purpose. The key here is to find yourself somewhere in the middle. You will have all the rest of your adult life to do very adult responsible things like pay a mortgage, and take care of a yard.
So take this opportunity to try some different fields of study or work. See what you like about them, and what you don’t like. Travel with friends or family. Take some intentional time to visit a bunch of different churches, you’ll find the evangelical Christian faith to be full of people who agree on a bunch and disagree on some things, but who all ultimately serve and love the same God.
Use your free time to do things you’d always hoped you’d do someday. Write a book. Take up hang gliding (but maybe don’t tell mom right away). Learn to cook.. These things will mold and shape you into who you are and will become.
Value #2: Responsibility
The second value is that of responsibility. As you learn to be an adult, this means you will gain more and more responsibility and hopefully more and more healthy autonomy. There are several areas where you will need to learn to be responsible.
One is living on your own (probably with rooomates or friends). This means eventually if you still do, you may not live under mom and dad’s roof. Each family will need to determine the best time and circumstances for this to happen, but it will be key that it happens at some point.
Two is financial responsibility. How you learn to and come to provide for yourself will be key over the next few years. This may be gradual or it may be all at once again determined on the family, but the goal is that the young adult eventually be providing for themselves in the majority of areas of their lives. Does this mean that parents can’t help you out financially? NO, it just means that you learn to pay your bills, and earn a living wage. There are complicating factors to all of this so it’s a broad value of a young adult working so they can pay for their own living expenses.
Third is spiritual responsibility. Your faith can become your own, if you grew up in the church. Your twenties is a great time to explore what that means and what God might be calling you specifically to in your life. Take responsibility for your own faith. Learn about it, seek out God. You also have the opportunity to learn to be a part of the larger church body during your twenties. You have an immense amount of energy and ideas that the church desperately needs. But you also have the opportunity to take responsibility to learn to serve the church body and learn to get along with people from other generations. Take the time to pray about where you might be called to take responsibility for serving.
Expect a lot from your young adults. This will teach them how to live in the world autonomously. Adult responsibility is a lot, and your young adult will need to eventually get used to that. That being said, sit down and determine, what that means for your family, and what that timeline looks like for you and your young adult. The key here is to agree as a family what and when and how the responsibility will take place.
The time is coming, if it already has not come, for you to do boring adult things like use your paycheck for car insurance and fixing your car, and paying the water bill. It’s not fun not being able to spend it all at the mall, but it’s important learning.
Also, seriously take advantage of taking responsibility for serving in the church and making your faith your own. Learn to get to know others in the church in other generations and figure out where God may have you serve.
Value #3: Calling-
If you or your young adult hasn’t already heard it enough already, I’m sure over the next few years, they will be hearing more and more questions of “What are you going to do with your life?” or “What are you going to do with your degree?” If you or your young adult hangs around the Christian community enough it may be worded like, “You have to find out what you’re calling is…” or “What did God create you to do in the world?”
All of these statements are ways of going about figuring out a sense of vocation and calling. These statements aren’t bad, but there is a broader way of looking at calling, than just by looking for the right fit in a job. You see, our calling, our vocation, what God put us on this earth to do, has some bigger underlying questions that we must answer in order to fully live out who we were created to be.
It’s the question of: Who is it you want to be in the world? What type of person do you want to be and how that is lived out will be an expression of your calling, and your vocation. I think it’s helpful to think of calling as things like: Who am I to be in my friendships? And what type of girlfriend or boyfriend and someday spouse will I be? What will I do to leave a legacy and what should I pour my life’s work into? Calling and vocation aren’t things to get pinned down in one afternoon. We live life and if we are intentionally seeking out answers to these questions, they will come. The answers to these questions come as we live out our daily lives and as we talk to those closest to us. But be patient, none of us have it all figured out.
Your students will learn a lot by you talking to them about how you figured out what you wanted your life to be about and what type of person you wanted to be. What was that process like for you? And then share with your young adult, the type of person you see them becoming. Who do you see them wanting to be? Does that match up with who they are now?
Be intentional about living out these questions. Keep asking them as you live your life and someday you’ll find yourself living into the answers. Remember: Entering the process always clarifies the call. So by you stepping out and trying different things, while asking these questions, you’ll be encouraged to find God clarifying who you should be and where you should be going.
Value #4: Relationships-
Your twenties can be a highly relational time of life, whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. You can really dive into some of the relationships closest to you and build new relationships, but you have to be intentional about it. As you gain more and more responsibility the temptation will be there to really just focus on your little life, and all the things you need to get done. You’ll remember the relationships you made with the people around you the most, so make sure you make those friendships and relationships a priority as you venture into adulthood.
Most of your life you’ve been mostly surrounded with peers, and your twenties are this strange time when you for the first time are surrounded with people in all sorts of life stages. Instead of this being intimidating, which it can be, use it as an opportunity to learn from those who are older or have more experience than you.
Peers are also very important during this time. Here’s the key to relationships during this time. Surround yourself with people you’d like to be like. And surround yourself with people who are seeking to be healthy in their relationships. Who you become can be heavily influenced by who you spend the most time with.
Model for your young adults how to have healthy relationships, in friendship and work and marriage and with extended family. They will as you well know learn from you (good or bad) more than anyone else, and the impact your relationships have on them is immense. Commit to getting healthy if you aren’t in some of your relationships your young adult experiences you having on a regular basis. Encourage your student to diversify their relationships and have a variety of types of friends. And talk to your student about the type of person you see them being in their relationships.
Take courage. It may be hard to seek out help for some unresolved issues that may be causing you problems relationally. But know this, until you deal with whatever pain you may be carrying around, it will always keep coming up. As much as you can try to hide it or push it away, ignore it and pretend it’s not there, it will keep coming up, until you find the root of it, and seek healing. This can be done in many ways. Find a great counselor, mentor, support system to help you process through the pain you have. Also, take time to ask older people about their life’s journey, it will enrich yours. And make really good friends by being a great friend. The type of friend you are and become during this time of life will have a huge impact on the type of parent you are, the type of spouse you are and who you end up being in your life.