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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.]


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  1. This is exactly it, Joy! My 30s have felt like another adolescence especially with my faith. Like I’m just waking up to my faith as my own and not what I’ve always been told. And this “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?” is the perfect description of it all.

    • “Like I’m just waking up to my faith as my own and not what I’ve always been told” — YES. I’m so glad to hear I’m not the only one.

  2. Okay, I’m only 29, technically. But I’ve been married for 12+ years. And I definitely feel all tweeny a lot of the time.

    • Hey, if you consider the in-utero time, you’re officially 30 :). And I resonate – I struggle with feeling more like I did as a tween than a teen. All awkward and like those half-grown fuzz-and-feather-mixed young adult flamingos at the zoo. But I guess that’s a good thing, right? It means we’re trying new things. If we never stuck our necks out, we’d never notice other people’s opinions (or wonder what they are, or fear them).

  3. There’s been a lot of let downs, but I feel like in our 30s, we are realistic enough to not be let down as often, which then also leads to pleasant surprises! And in our 30s, we grow even more self confidence and awareness that we lacked before. Glass is half full, friend! ; )

  4. I believe the series of doubts will happen as long as we’re still on this side. BUT, I think those doubts mean we are headed in the right direction. It is when we become over confident and breezing through life, that our walk with God isn’t as close. As long as we are conscience of our path, we are right there with God. In my latter 30’s, I’m finally realizing who I am and learning to be okay with that.

  5. Hi Joy!

    Do you remember the roller coaster ride of being a teen? Hard to forget, right? Most people wouldn’t want to relive their teen years unless they could go back knowing what they know now. Being a spiritual teen can be the same experience. I have 3 kids, 2 in their 20’s and a 16 yo daughter and I am on the upper end of being a spiritual teenager, (I hope).

    As parents we trained our children in the principles of right and wrong, integrity, problem solving, relationship development, etc.. As they were going through their teens we would give them more room to explore and exercise their independence as they showed us what they were willing to do. If they consistently stayed within the guidelines of what they learned and knew was right then me would give them even more room and bigger opportunities.

    Well I believe God does the same with us. He wants us to trust and obey. The more obedient and trusting we are, the bigger the spiritual opportunities become. What we do with the little stuff will determine whether He will trust us with bigger adventures. If we are focused on HIs will and trust Him for outcomes we’ll spiritually mature faster.

    My mistake was taking my eyes off of Him from about 22 to about 35. That is my biggest regret in life. I missed countless opportunities to mature spiritually during those years. I suffered some setbacks because He is a just God and a loving Father. He wanted all of me.

    It sounds like you are in a season of preparing, cultivating, training, and anticipating for your spiritual 20’s when the really big opportunities will open up! David slayed Goliath when he was 12. He stayed close to God and spent many years in conflicts with Saul. David still had to spiritually mature before God would make him the king. We have to prove our trust and obedience before He will trust us with His BIG plan for our lives.

    You are right to learn what He says in His Word instead of taking other’s word for what He says. The more we know His Word, His principles, His love, the more obedient, trusting, and pleasing we can become. That’s really why we’re here, to glorify and please Him through the power of His Holy Spirit!

    I hope this is encouraging. I love reading your blog!!!



    (Please forgive my poor grammar… it’s Friday and my brain is fried!!!)

  6. Well I’m well past 30. But, I’m not sure weather I should say this or not but I still think those same thoughts. Plus I have new ones. But I am alone. So things may be different if I was married. So I will just start praying that things will begin to change for all of us. This I do know Jesus is Faithful, so there is hope!

  7. mhmm, that about sums it up. that & burdened — oh, so burdened by the hurts around me. friend after friend facing incredible hurt in their marriage, several waking through painful divorces. close friends hurting deeply from other circumstances in life. all of these things making my soul ache, too.

    and then my own personal journeys of dying to self, & how relentlessly my flesh cries out against that. there’s so much freedom in the life that comes from death — i’ve tasted it! but the dying process is so very painful. SO painful.

    it’s interesting you mention this b/c i was thinking about it a bit myself recently when we were walking on the NJ boardwalk, w/ is filled w/ many in their teens & 20s. so i was pondering the vast differences of those carefree seasons of life w/ my current season. but, i cherish the heart construction that God has done in my soul since those younger days — wouldn’t trade those pieces of who i now am.

    (and i never thought about our marriages as “adolescent” — that’s incredibly insightful!)

  8. Glad to know I’m not the only 30 something that is introspective and questioning EVERYTHING around her and about her. I feel like I am finding myself all over again and it is a painful, growing process. I hadn’t thought of it in the context of adolescence but that is a great way to describe it- yearning to be independent and “successful” in my own eyes yet learning more and more each day that I am at my best when I am completely dependent on my Father.

  9. yes! my 30’s were a lot like adolescence. i like 40’s better. more peaceful and restful.

  10. “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.” I think that’s my starting point for the decade of the 40s and my “shitty first draft” (Anne Lamott’s accurate phrase) that you can take – or not.

    My 30s ended with me still grieving my dad. He had died when I was 37, but I couldn’t shake the grief and mild depression for 2-3 years. My parents had been divorced when I was 13, so I think the grief got mixed in with the dad I never knew as well as the reality that I would never know him, and never really having the sense that dad was proud of the woman I was becoming and would I ever have that sense of knowing that I had made him proud of me, or feeling accepted by him.

    So when I came out of that grief, I remember it being a day where I looked up at the sky after dropping the kids off at school, and knowing I was done with grief. During those 2-3 years, I started songwriting, which, fast forward 10 years, is my passion. Those 2-3 years also forever changed my relationship with my then-husband. He had left me isolated to deal with the grief and when I came out of that tunnel, I was different. I had used that time to really discover God, reading “Journey of Desire” and Tozer books and I was intimately aware of this upside-down, black and white world.

    My marriage ultimately ended in my 40s. Today, just 5 months before I turn 50, I sit in an apartment with my 18 year old daughter and am at peace for the first time in perhaps, decades. I just had my hair dyed this Bozo clowny red. No, it wasn’t supposed to be that red, something happened along the way to Emma Stone beautiful red. One of my piano/voice students begins her recording in about 2 weeks and I will be posting on my journey as co-producer on my blog that is about to get off the ground. I had a real date last night for the first time in over 25 years. I have more work coming my way than is humanly possible, and I’m excited that I’m at this place where I’ve finally convinced myself that I do know a thing or two. And that the deep holes that are left by divorce and emotional dismemberment are the very holes that God’s love seems to be pouring through and there is abundant blessing and joy.

    Looking back, I think the 40s were the decade where as Larry Crabb says somewhere in “Inside Out” that it is okay to ask the questions. The church teaches not to ask questions because “confusion comes from the enemy”. That’s mostly garbage (I’m still having church issues). Those questions often bordered on navel-gazing and self-pity, but with the help of loving friends, honest discussions with family, long times of good Bible study, the answers rose to the top like the froth on a fruit shake.

    Here at the end of my 40s, I will not say that I have “arrived” or “come into my own”. Things take so much more time than I think I would like for them to. If I had to sum up the decade in one word: courage. The courage to be honest, to ask, to grieve openly, to despair privately, to rage at the church, to wrestle with answers that the Holy Spirit is patient to bring. I’ve become slightly Buddhist in trusting God for the serendipity of timing. I have an eye now towards legacy and what am I leaving behind in this world. What do I still want to say through my songs? Ok that’s one page. Badly written.

  11. Thanks, Joy. I’m a slow learner. I was in my late 40’s before all of this caught up with me. I’m still learning, reflecting, etc. in my 60’s. Sometimes I think it would be great to be in my 30’s and 40’s. But then I remember the agony of some horrible circumstances during those decades, and I realize who I am today is because of where I was then, including the pain and agony.

    Joy wrote: “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.”

    that summarizes where I had been. And it has made me more sensitive to those on the fringe of church, the hurting. So my caring is more tentative (I’ve been burned, too), but my caring is deeper today because of God drawing me closer when it felt like He was further away (Hidden God vs. Revealed God). “Authentic” is not something new with this generation. We all come to grips with that need for honesty and authenticity; some of us are just slower in admitting.

    Thanks for your continuing story of searching and asking. God’s richest blessings in Jesus Christ in this process.