I’ve thought about my age a lot recently.
I never really thought about my age in the past.
In high school, I never mentioned my age because I skipped a grade. I didn’t want anyone to know how young I was. I always dreaded when someone asked me how old I was and I would intentionally avoid the subject.
In my early-mid 20’s, age was just another thing. Mostly a thing for my single friends and I to poke fun at–deeming ourselves “Old maids” in “Christian Girl World”, and trying to navigate the ins and outs of college, grad school, and surviving the seemingly inevitable list of odd jobs worked to afford rent and tuition.
However recently, I have felt such an unease. A discomfort. A fear. A strong sense of
awkwardness. A sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
The strange feeling of being afraid of growing up.
Perhaps, in many ways, a loss of belonging.
It’s this strange reality of no longer being a child. But in some ways feeling like one because of the lack of “milestones.”
Without the marriage to move you on into the “next stage of life.”
Without a child (or several) to move you on further.
Without the purchase of a home. Or the financial stability provided by a “good” job.
How do you “grow up” without those assumed life stages?
When you’re not really sure if you should buy acne products or anti-wrinkle creme (I use both).
The odd reality of feeling you have more in common with an unmarried 21 year old than you do someone your age who is married with 3 kids.
No longer really belonging in the world of college students. Not belonging in the world of the married.
No longer feeling like you belong anywhere.
What metaphorical table do I sit at in the lunchroom of life?
What ministry do I sign up for at church? When am I no longer a “young single”? Is there a place for “old” ones? Is there a place in a church for me?
Is there a place in life for me?
Where do I belong?
I realized this was part of the unease I have been feeling. The loss of belonging. Which led to the fear of never belonging.
The fear of aging. Of growing up without ever “growing up.” Of growing old and somehow missing all the boxes I should have checked off.
This fear, I assume, is something all humans feel regardless of their ages. Regardless of their “stage in life.”
We all desire to belong.
We all crave it.
And search for it.
We want the unease to end.
We search for belonging in our jobs. In our relationships. In a significant other.
I have felt so often like a square peg in a round hole- desperately wanting nothing more than to find a fit at last.
We want to know we aren’t so different. Aren’t so odd.
We want to know that we haven’t missed the proverbial mark. That we are growing up just fine in all of growing up’s peculiarity.
We want to be acknowledged and seen and heard. We want to walk into a room and have people smile at us- welcoming us in, because we belong there. We are wanted. And we belong.
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t offer the secret to growing up or belonging. But I offer three “Remembers” in the midst of the peculiarity of growing up.
1) Remember who He is.
Remember His faithfulness and His goodness. Remember His immutability- that as you age, change, and inevitably “grow up”, He remains the same. He is with you. And He understands. Perhaps we forget that Jesus had to grow up. He is able, in every way, to sympathize with our weaknesses. He is acquainted with our griefs. He knows the ache and the hard of growing up in this broken world. And He hasn’t left you to figure it out on your own. He is not surprised or angered that you feel unease, sadness, disappointment, or fear. He is not angry at you for feeling like you don’t belong. He, instead, beckons you to come. Come as you are. Come to Him. And trust Him with all the messiness of your growing up. Trust that He has you. And trust that His ways are higher and His ways are better, even when we do not understand.
2. Remember what He’s done.
God, in His grace, sent His Son into the messiness of growing up. He didn’t “belong” in this broken world. But He took upon Himself this broken world so that one day those who trust in Him can belong to a different one. The one they were always meant for. Let your unease remind you that you were created for a different world- a world with no pain, heartache, awkwardness, and discomfort. And remember and proclaim what He has done as you live in the “already, not yet”–speaking the truth in love as you grow up in every way into Christ.
3. Remember His future promise.
There is coming a day when we will be home. When the hole aching deep inside of us will be filled. Where discontent will not exist. Where our deepest satisfactions will be met. Where we will truly belong. God’s ways are perfect and He only allows what is best. There will always be a sense in us that we don’t belong. There will always be an unease until we reach the other side. But don’t let that unease stop you from moving forward- from growing up. With or without “milestones.” Keep moving. Keep going. Keep embracing the peculiarity of growing up.
And as you walk through your life. As you learn to grow up. Remember who He is. Remember what He’s done. And remember His future promise.
Fix your eyes on Jesus in the peculiarity of growing up.
I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!