After turning thirty a few weeks ago, I’ve been reminiscing about the past while pondering the future. I think about my friends, some successful in both marriage and career while some remain where they were a decade ago. This, coupled with all the trending articles attempting to dissect my generation has led to this post: A challenge to myself and my fellow millennials to embrace honesty and do whatever it takes to live out our full potential.
1. Be More Than A Selfie
All it takes is thirty seconds on Instagram for someone to be convinced that we must be the most confident generation in history. Opening the app & reversing the camera to take a pic of ourselves has become second nature, along with reopening it ten minutes later to see how many likes you’ve gotten. Is this a reflection of a self-obsessed culture or is it proof that we’re actually the least confident, desperately in need of constant affirmation? We constantly place ourselves on display, anxiously awaiting the world’s response, allowing that response to either boost or demolish whatever amount of self-esteem we’ve mustered that day and it’s time we ask ourselves why.
Come on, people. There’s nothing wrong with posting photos of our lives for our friends and family to enjoy but we need to check our motivation for doing so. If it’s a boost of self-esteem we’re looking for or if we’re that dependent on accolade, we need to be honest and do something to fix whatever is broken in our own lives. What if every selfie actually reflected someone that was truly confident and lived from a place of self-worth & empowerment instead of a need for affirmation. More so, what if our actions were an outward sign of inner confidence, not in a prideful sort of way but simply done without expectation or need.
2. Let’s Follow Through
Looking back at the past ten years, I get slightly (ok, a lot) embarrassed at the amount of empty words I threw around. It was never intentional and I know I wasn’t alone. For some reason, we millennials value words but often lack the follow through. We say we value relationships that develop “organically” yet when it comes to basic decencies like calling people back, initiating hang outs, and sticking around for the hard stuff, we drop the ball. We’re all about dinner parties but when it comes to the grunge, like helping out when the husband/wife is sick or God forbid–someone moves–we totally drop the ball. We “like” or “share” posts on Facebook or Twitter, assuming that’s a substitute for action.
What if our desire for authentic relationship actually looked like just that–authentic relationships. What if we valued friendships as family and decided that we would commit ourselves to that person regardless of their situation, viewing their successes and tragedies as our own. What if we loved incessantly with a kind of love that was more than words but truly lived out the ideals we so often talk about. Let’s not jump on a social justice bandwagon to boost our image but let’s get practical in ways to make a difference. Let’s serve our friends, love with action, and set a new standard for ourselves.
3. Unique Isn’t All that Unique
I really don’t understand it but we’ve become a generation that has made “uncool” cool and “old” new. Hipster glasses and skinny jeans has become the accepted norm and we do everything we can to try and fit the mold without appearing to have put in too much effort. Unfortunately, this effort to be different goes a lot further than clothes and is affecting our professional and personal lives. We look down on someone if their job isn’t interesting enough and are easy to categorize someone as a “sell out” if their career choice doesn’t meet the criteria we’ve made up in our heads.
The millennials grew up under the Baby Boomers, a generation that was determined to succeed and achieve, probably a result of seeing their parents directly effected in the Great Depression. Consequently, we viewed their success and longevity in a career as a mundane devotion. While the decision not to settle for a career you’re not passionate about seems idealistic, there is danger involved. The problem arises when we, as a generation, strive so hard NOT to become something instead of striving TO become something that we inadvertently become just that–nothing. We don’t know what we want to be yet we’re confident in what we DON’T want to be and by the time we realize we’ve spent years trying NOT to be something, we’re well into our thirties, wondering what in the world just happened!
Without a doubt, I believe that our generation has the ability to change the world in ways not yet even imagined. We have the technology to communicate to the world in seconds and our brains are now trained to dream big. However, we’ve created our own hindrance with a unique threshold that we force ourselves to meet instead of allowing ourselves to relax, dream big, and go after it with everything we have. If you want to be a doctor, be a doctor. If you want to own a boutique, do it. If you don’t care, then find a job you enjoy in a comfortable environment and give it 100 percent. There’s no shame in that either. Just because I might want something out of the ordinary doesn’t give me the right to judge someone who doesn’t. I mean, someone has to work the jobs in the industries I take advantage of every day so criticizing them reveals more about my character than theirs.
4. Let’s Commit
Just like I’ve mentioned before, that big “C” word is now associated with stigma and fear. From marriage statistics to job commitment, it’s no secret that we millenials avoid commitment as if its the plague. We say we’re holding out for the best but if we’re honest, we’re probably much more controlled by fear than motivated by the desire to find “the one,” whether we’re referring to a spouse or a career. I get it and for much of my twenties, I operated the same way. We don’t want to settle and would rather wait for something better instead of taking the plunge and risking it.
This ‘need to be different’ has invaded our minds and instead of propelling us forward, has become quicksand that instead holds us back. I don’t think you should marry the next man/woman that comes your way nor do I think you should spend years in a career that you dislike. However, there’s a refining and development of character that can only come when we decide to commit ourselves because when we’re committed, we don’t leave when things get tough or our pride gets damaged. We face confrontation head on because staying true and loyal is more important than fleeing and trying something new.
So–what if we coupled our creativity with commitment and when we got a great idea, we decided to stay with it until it actually happened. What if we weren’t afraid of failure because we knew that our determination to see our dream realized was more important than a hurt pride. And what if we combined our desire for authentic relationship and with a commitment to marriage, making the decision to get married a decision based on what we are going to give rather than what we are going to receive. We have the capability and desire to redefine marriage and create amazing careers that we all say we want–however, it requires putting fear aside, taking a risk, and a making decision to commit!
5. Let’s love the Church
Look, I’ll be first to admit that there are few places more broken than the church. It’s full of hypocrisy, judgment, and even worse, sinners. However, there is a reason–because it’s full of PEOPLE! So often we start doing something because of God but we quit because of people and for most of us, this is very reason we decide to join a church–and the reason we decide to leave. The minute we walk into a church, our critical eyes are scoping it all out and immediately, we start making judgments. It’s too big, it’s too small. It’s too religious or it’s too charismatic. The worship is too long, the worship isn’t long enough. There was nobody my age or everyone was my age. We go for a few weeks or maybe a few months then we get offended or bored and that’s it. We leave and decide “it wasn’t for me.”
I totally get this and to be honest, I completely led the pack in my early 20’s. I spoke passionately of loving Jesus, reaching the lost and following Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, my sermonic rants were often filled of disrespectful antics toward the church and those in leadership. Looking back, it breaks my heart–because now, I understand that it breaks Papa’s heart. You see, we aren’t called to walk with Jesus alone and we certainly aren’t called to live in isolation. We are called–commanded–to join with our brothers and sisters to further the kingdom of God, reaching out to those who are lost and pursuing more of Jesus. My entire life (and I’m not exaggerating) was transformed when I truly understood God’s purpose for the church and was freed from a critical spirit and not a moment since have I been tempted to think otherwise.
If we love Jesus, we must love truth. If we love truth, we must love the Word. If we love the Word, we must love the church. It’s as simple as that. I don’t know about you, but I do NOT want to be a part of the generation who is written about in the history books as the ones in charge when most Americans abandoned the church. That being said, what if instead of deciding to join a church based on what we get every Sunday, we decide to join because we believe in it’s vision and we decide to commit ourselves to pursue that vision along side the other members. What if we no longer treat the church like a restaurant someone is forcing us to go to, rating each Sunday’s service based on what we receive and actually decide that this is simply the place you have decided to GIVE. Imagine if every believer joined with other believers, decided on a vision, and gave of their time, money, and energy to see it realized. At the very least, we must create and sustain places for non-believers to come, meet Jesus, get whole, develop relationships, and create their new life. If we start there, the possibilities are endless on how we can change the world.
6. Let’s Be Relentless in Our Pursuit
Of everything I write, this–this is most important. We must never stop, slow down, or detour from the pursuit of knowing Jesus, the true Father, & Holy Spirit. Despite the fact I just insisted that we must not abandon the church, this pursuit I mention is completely independent of it. We, I, must never stop in the journey towards Jesus. At the core of who we are, we are a generation who is desperate for something–someone–real, powerful, alive, and at work and we must channel that in our relationship with Him.
So, let’s pursue Him relentlessly. Let’s pursue Him in a such a way that we are more familiar with His words than we are our own. Let’s pray for increased hunger for more and let’s build our spirit through intimacy and worship so we are not influenced by our environment but our environment is transformed by our spirits. Let us not base our theology on our experiences but let’s be so sure of who He is that, that everything around us is transformed. Let’s not compromise His character to appease our wondering minds but instead, let’s stand firm, assured of who He is, waiting and acting in expectation and faith. Let’s be the type of people who says “I’ll pray for you” and actually mean it and let’s stand with our friends and family until their breakthrough happens. Let’s be committed to see heaven invade Earth with the love of Jesus, remaining strong through trial, and steadfast in our faith.
When I think about my generation, I cringe. And then I smile. I smile because I see the potential and endless capabilities that are at our fingertips. We’ve been called entitled by most and lazy by some yet none denies that we are on the brink of something great. So, to those of us carrying the label of Generation Y–the Millennials–let’s be committed to defying the odds. Let’s prove our doubters wrong. No one else is going to do it for us. Let’s be each others’ greatest encourager and be committed to finish strong. It doesn’t happen overnight but with each, individual decision that we make. Underestimate nothing, especially yourself.