Most 18 to 20 somethings spend their college-age years doing the stupid things in what I call the stupid years. Some get a quicker start and others are late bloomers in the area of stupidity. The stupid years are spent doing the stupid things, the hazy years, the wake up and dread, “did I really just do that?” years. The confusing years. The “who am I And where am I going?” years. We just aren’t putting all the puzzle pieces together and for some we aren’t even trying. Oh, and not only do we do stupid things, we care too much! But not in a good way caring…in a bad way caring. Caring what others do, say, or think. We think SO many thoughts about their thoughts. If I could reclaim and bundle the hours I spent thinking about what others were thinking–I am pretty sure I could take at least a week’s vacation. We care too much in the stupid years but we also strive too much. We strive to be something we are not. We strive to be someone we are not. And some of us realize quicker than others we are striving and we stop. But if you are in the stupid years or care too much or are still striving…just stop. You be you.
I wrote a bit about my stupid years (here) after spending some time at the beach. The beach was a brief stop and pause from my regularly scheduled life. Re-entry to the US brought on a new layer of grief I had not expected. The grief was rough for me in the faith department. So rough in fact I wrote this, Crisis of Faith: Are You There God? It’s Me Jenni. If that wasn’t enough, I wrote these words. I was in the tantrum phase of my faith journey. I was angry, sad, depressed…and I was committed to feeling the feels despite the darkness I was experiencing. I didn’t care who I offended in the process. Call me an itsy bitsy faithless baby Christian. If as a pastor’s wife and a missionary I was struggling with being beaten down by the gut-wrenching heartache of this world, I felt dishonest and inauthentic to pretend I was okay. And as a friendly aside, you shouldn’t pretend either, it makes things messier later.
The beach was the perfect “time out” I needed to gather my thoughts, feel the feels and be in nature. But then I went to one of the most magical places on earth…Windy Gap. A place where not only nature speaks…but people do to. Sometimes with their words…but more often with their lives.
Person after person told stories of tragedy, of heartbreak and loss. So many experiencing real, raw hardship before they were of legal drinking age. Each one had such a unique journey leading them to the Blue Ridge mountains…but each one now trusted in something bigger than themselves to carry them through life. I was inspired by their faith and their committed hearts to love God and love others. They seemed to recognize the burns and stings and the brokenness trail-marking their path could not be the end. There was still too much life to now live. They were survivors ready for more story…more life…life to the full. I admire their courage to rise strong (yes this is a reference to the current book I am reading) and though my stupid years ended long ago–my stuck-ness from my most recent events of my faith journey was a little more dislodged (for the better) after meeting these people and listening and learning from their love, faith, and life.
So whether you are a 20-something stuck in the stupid years, or whether you are 20 x 2…and you are still striving too much or caring too much…or you are like me: in a place of figuring out how to rise strong after a hard hit to your family and faith…may we take a moment to learn from my college-age friends at Windy Gap. The young men and women who have loads more life to live, who are going to be asked more often throughout their lives not about their conversion story…but their consistent story with God…I believe they will have less stupid and more solid stuff to say. They are holding to something much larger than themselves and they are holding to others who encourage them to be themselves. That sounds like a life well-lived.
May You Be a Blessing and May you be Blessed,