The journey of life is from being a son or daughter (arms lifted up to receive from others) to becoming a father or mother, who mainly reaches out to protect and bless others.
In our youth, we yearn to discover our God-given identity, we gain skills for life, and hunger to find our place in the world.
Jesus Himself, our ultimate model, truly showed us how to live. He grew; no more quickly than we do. He spent 9 months in the womb, and "grew in favor with God and man," beginning his ministry years at the age of 30.
1. The identity years:
from birth through the late-20s
We get comfortable in our own skin and become familiar with the surrounding culture. Our family of origin shapes us and we gain a sense of who we are.
This is the season when we learn to communicate. We gain an understanding of sexual identity, and ethnicity, and see some of how the world works.
If we encounter Christ, this forms a more complete understanding of the world, as He made it and holds all things together. This adds purpose to our understanding.
When we leave home, we may move about a bit, and make short-term commitments. We seek to discover where our skills, passions, and an actual job intersects with our faith. We individuate and find out who we are apart from our family of origin. In Christ, we find belonging in a community of believers.
As we gain experience working in educational settings, various workplaces, and social groups, we "grow in favor with God and man" as Jesus did.
Until he was 30, Jesus gained understanding of his Jewish roots in Nazareth, with one trip to the capital city. This prepared him for the next season, into which He was launched at his baptism. He heard "You are my son, whom I love. I’m pleased with you." He had until then done no significant "ministry" and needed to be confident of his identity before he began his miraculous years of public ministry. He knew where he came from, and where he was going, so he was free to serve others.
2. The contribution years:
from our late-20s to retirement
In this season, we decide on an occupation or a series of them. Commitments are longer-term. We may start a family, join a ministry, and have a sense of where God wants us to serve. This season is mainly about contributing to others and the world we find ourselves in.
Jesus selected his team, taught, and healed many, while living an itinerant lifestyle, often taking his team aside and giving them greater insight, preparing them for their future leadership roles.
There came a day when he moved into a new season, "setting his face towards Jerusalem" and speaking plainly about the end of that season. When he ascended after 40 days of final instructions, he moved on, leaving his legacy to his original disciples. He knew the timing and didn’t allow people to define his legacy. "It’s better for you that I go..."
3. The legacy years:
for Investing in future generations
Most people after 40, stop learning and think that their best years are behind them. Don’t plateau and make this mistake. “Live a life that outlives yours.”
Think about Saul, who became the apostle Paul. His identity had to change first, as he took years, as many as 12-18 years, being transformed from a terrorist to a son and friend of God. He was Jewish but learned to "count as loss" most of what he had earlier valued and identified as. God took years to prepare him for his time on the world stage.
He is best known as an apostle, who built a movement towards Jesus in places “where Christ was not known.” He always invested in men and women who would become leaders of others.
When told he would be arrested in Jerusalem, he didn’t stay away but moved into his final season. Everything changed for Paul, as he embraced the limitations of prison and house arrest.
While bound, he used the opportunity to empower generations to come. He wrote private letters to younger leaders and public letters to communities he would no longer visit. His "prison epistles" are still being read today around the world.
In your younger years, gain skills. Serve well. Find "your people." Continue to learn both formally and informally. Serve and connect with mature leaders. Move around a bit. Ask lots of questions. Get to know God, His ways, and more of His world. Become rooted in God’s word and especially make a habit of receiving the Father’s love and affirmation.
Learn to move on when a season ends, so your influence can increase.
When your life ends, you might have a smile on your face when you zoom in on your own memorial service, and hear others speak of your impact on their lives.
What does exploring missions look like as a young adult?
Let's see how some of our friends and past DTS students have both discovered and explored their God-given callings.