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No-One Told Me About this Second Adolescence

Being 30-something is like being an adolescent all over again.

Joy sad and disappointed

I realized this today as I was responding to a survey question for 30-somethings on Frank Viola’s blog (if he gets over 100 responses, he’ll give away prizes to 5 respondents). Though his question is focused primarily on relationships in the church, I believe it goes wider and deeper than that. We struggle with relationships in general: marriage, friendships, churches, family. It’s difficult to break through the veneer to the real life underneath, where we can practice and exhibit the kind of unconditional love we crave.

I think we’re afraid to connect at a deep level. I’ve been burned. My idealism jaded (but not completely destroyed), I dangle my feet in cynicism instead. I’ve thought it 1000 times: “I’d rather prepare for the worst and be pleasantly surprised than hope for the best and be bitterly disappointed.” Yet I cannot help but protest, “It isn’t supposed to be this way!” when confronted with brokenness again.

These ten years have been (are?) a time of transition. I’m trying to leave behind the slavery of people-pleasing and embrace the freedom of concerning myself only with pleasing God. But my hands are very full, and so is my heart, full of children and an adolescent marriage (we’ll be married 14 years this fall) and work and stewardship of our resources. I am busy, but self-doubting, wondering if this is really what God has called me to do and be or if I’m missing it or being lazy or drifting. Or is this a season of preparing, cultivating, training, and anticipating the next?

If I have anything in common with the rest my age, we’re overwhelmed, scarred by life, and uncertain, yet we haven’t given up enough hope to despair completely.

Am I right? What is or has been your experience in your 30s?

[Taking a break from the book series to reflect a little this Friday.]


Innocence Lost ~ Life:Unmasked

The elevator doors opened and two nurses rolled a young man in a wheelchair into the parking garage. A brain or neurological condition had contorted his muscles into painful-looking kinks. My kids stepped back to give them room, and then stepped into the elevator without batting an eye. No questions, no pointing, no fear. I thought I glimpsed a spark of recognition in their eyes.

elevator buttonsI’m torn between sorrow that they are so used to the brokenness in our world, especially in the bodies of children, and thankfulness that they are used to it. My kids are very matter-of-fact about things many children don’t even know exist, like brain injuries, heart surgery, funerals, and cemeteries.

Last night, my four-year-old son told an acquaintance of mine, “We used to have six kids in our family, but my sister Elli died.” I wish I could be that open every day. Some days I don’t want to talk about it, to admit it out loud. I guess we never quite outgrow the denial phase.

Every one of our family is haunted by fear. We know death intimately and its habit of surprise. As I expected, the kids have worked through the death of their sister in phases, as they’ve understood more and more, or grown to ask different questions. I see it in their eyes when they catch a cold or cut themselves or need dental work or walk into a room with lots of medical equipment, like we did yesterday. The youngest had a checkup at the hospital, and one of his tests was in an exam room prepared with everything for a patient from the ICU. I saw the panic in my daughter’s eyes as she took in the ventilator, monitors, i.v. pumps, racks of medications and syringes and lines, and rows of med labels.

“Mom, does my brother need all that?” she asked, holding on to me tightly.

“No, honey. They have those things for other children, but your brother doesn’t need any of it. They will just use that one computer over there.” I hugged her.

She relaxed a little when the technician entered the room, pushed all the unneeded equipment against the wall, and sat down at the computer I had pointed out.

I am thankful that so far, my kids are fairly open about their questions. I am thankful that we can be with them to guide them through the emotions and fears and processing they are doing now, especially since Scott and I are so familiar with it all ourselves. But a part of me still weeps at the loss of our innocence.


Life: unmasked buttonOn Wednesdays I host the Life:Unmasked meme, where we dare to take off our masks, write naked, and share the real us. The instructions are simple: include a link back to this post in your post (you can use this short link: http://wp.me/p2n5xv-xQ ). Copy the direct link to your post into the linky below. Then visit a couple others and leave a comment to let them know you stopped by. I will do my best to do the same.

Out of the Mouth of a Woman Preacher ~ Finding Church

My husband and I put in quite a few hours in the front seats of our minivan this past week. For much of that time, we sat quiet, alone with our thoughts, using the down time to process things. It’s a good friend who is comfortable with silence.

a lone ranger

It wasn’t until we began making our way towards home that Scott asked me what I’m thinking about church right now. Problem is I still don’t know what I think. It’s all a big swirling muddle. What I thought I knew and what I thought I wanted are all in question. It is very easy for me to think all the way around something, seeing the risks and benefits of any issue or choice. It’s usually good, but this time it has paralyzed me.

We set to work teasing out the various threads in the tangled mess of my head. Most was tension between seemingly opposing ideas.

One is the importance of church. I suspect that I’ve built up the idea of church far beyond what is reasonable to ask or expect of it. However, I also see the significance placed on the early church in the Bible compared to the arms-length way in which many Americans engage with their churches. The body of Christ, the Church, is Jesus’s bride. If I am adopted into God’s family, I’m part of the body, part of the universal church, and I need to find a local body of believers with which to serve. Sure, I want to hold people at arms’ length too, especially when they are a source of pain and conflict. But I don’t think the Bible gives any of us that option.

This leads me to my tendency, both as part of my Western lone-ranger heritage and as part of my Type-A personality, to think I don’t need anything or anyone, especially if they hurt me and set off after Jesus all by my lonesome. However, we were made for relationships, and as I’ve already said, the Bible emphasizes the body of Christ as important. I can’t get away from that.

Finally, I’m torn between wanting to avoid the pain and conflict and discomfort of the past and knowing that God doesn’t promise safety and comfort, not in the here and now. I don’t want to make the safe choice (whatever that is). But I also don’t want to be foolish again, and miss the warning signs of an unhealthy church. Scott pointed out that we bring ourselves to whichever church we join, so we will add to it or fill in some gaps with our gifts, talents, experiences (both good and bad), and even our baggage. That’s part of how God redeems the bad stuff, right?

The very next day, we visited another church, this time one a friend had recommended. It was refreshing in many ways, but what floored me is what I heard in the sermon. The pastor introduced the sermon, on women, and then handed the microphone to his wife. He said this was a first for their church, but he wanted his wife to speak to the women. She preached from the book of Ruth, and I could hardly believe what she said: A godly woman recognizes that following God’s ways is not always going to be easy or comfortable. A godly woman will make decisions with which much of the world will not agree. A godly woman will take risks. We cannot make decisions based on safety or comfort or “this is what we’ve always done.”

I know all of this. We had just discussed it all the day before. Now, it doesn’t completely untangle the mess in my head. We still don’t know what choice to make, but we know that we need to fight hard against our desire to retreat from risk and pain, and we know we want to return to this church again.

How do you sort through conflicting thoughts about decisions? Have you considered whether your church could benefit from your baggage?