The perils of young adulting seem to be increasing.
The perils of young adulting have always existed. But today they seem more confusing than ever. As I’ve worked with countless college students and three daughters navigating that territory, I appreciate the growing complexity they face.
When I sought a clear path as a young adult, I often found “Road Closed” and “Detour” signs blocking my way. And I longed for flashes of lightning or a banner down from heaven.
But today the perils of young adulting almost seem like distorted bright reflections on a wet pavement.
My college students often told me they had expected college to be a wonderful time. And it often was. But it was also often painful. Life confused them.
I regularly shared my mother’s wisdom. She had comforted my sisters and me more times than I can count this way: “Honey, don’t ever let anyone tell you these are the best years of your life. It gets better.”
One of my students responded by telling me her story. She had so frequently been told in high school that those would be her best years, that after graduation she attempted suicide.
Similarly, at twelve, one of my daughters heard from an elderly woman in church, “Enjoy these years, honey. They’re the best years of your life.” My daughter walked to the car with us afterward and asked, “Shall I just kill myself now? It’s all downhill from here?”
Fortunately, she was not feeling suicidal. But she was twelve! And for someone to tell her that was the best time of her life was unknowingly cruel. She wanted reassurance that life would get better. We probably all remember the painful swings of emotions in adolescence. Clueless adults can make those even worse.
Unfortunately, as adults we can easily idealize childhood or young adulthood and give pain to others as we reminisce.
Even college students are guilty of the same thing as they idealize their childhoods.
I remember being shocked by how hard it was for my students to understand the topic of a poem I taught on the fears and traumas of childhood. They read it through the eyes of nostalgia. A poem talking about night lights and thumb sucking had to be happy. Most simply could not see the fears expressed in the poem.
What they needed to see is what all of us need to see: each age has its joys and its pains. And at any stage, focusing on our fears can derail us.
We can pray through Philippians 4:6-7, by ourselves and with our children:
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NIV)
We know that God promises us peace, but that does not make the baby’s hunger disappear instantly. It doesn’t prevent a child from being afraid in the night. And it doesn’t prevent young people from having to figure out what God wants them to do with their lives. And it certainly doesn’t prevent parents from experiencing the agony of letting go and letting God take charge–of our lives, of our children’s lives, of our friends’ lives.
As I often said to my girls while praying through Philippians 4 with them, “It would be so nice if we could just give our concerns to God and be done with them. Unfortunately, he still wants us to do the required work. And we have to trust him to let us know what that is.”
And trusting is hard. At any age. Whether in the perils of young adulting or much older.