Turning 30 yesterday caused me to reflect on this past decade. So many memories and experiences! I framed this season of life from my first flight at the age of 19. I went to California over spring break with some college friends. Before that, I had only taken vacations in our Taurus station wagon Over the past year and a half, I counted nine flights to Europe, America, and Japan. Though I finished college at 21, a majority of this decade surprisingly was spent studying (whether at seminary, Edinburgh, or even now with Japanese language school).
I have not followed a typical path, but wouldn’t exchange my experiences and opportunities for a stable or affluent life. My advice would not be for young people to necessarily follow my exact footsteps, but I want to share some advice for those with their futures wide open.
1. Hone in on your dream by assessing your gifts, passions, and the world’s needs
It takes time for a dream to mature. Sometimes the best thing is to explore and try various things and begin to put the pieces together for how God has wired you and how He wants to best use you in life. I must have had 25 different jobs during college, from catering, marketing research, credit card collections, youth ministry, Wrigley Field staff, etc. I also was able to serve in various ways, whether teaching Sunday school, helping start a youth group, helping with inner city kids after-school programs, or even preaching on Michigan Avenue. These experiences both helped shape what brought joy and fulfillment to my life, while also eliminating what really was not where I excelled or felt called. It has been said that your calling is where the world’s need and your passion collide. With the options for work and career so broad, it helps to reflect on where your strengths are, positive experiences, and how this might lead you forward to do something meaningful and rewarding with your life. For me, the three passions of pastoral ministry, missions, and youth repeatedly surfaced. My consuming interest in preaching has also been a strong thread for where my dreams and passions were pointing.
2. Take advantage of this time to experience the world and life
Now being married and a parent, this new life has brought great blessings but certain limitations. Before, I could freely and spontaneously join friends on a road trip, choose to study or travel anywhere, or freely serve and volunteer in my free time. Before tied into paying a mortgage, raising kids, or holding a career, you are uniquely positioned to try and explore new things without many restraints. The thought of serving overseas for a season in your life is much simpler when it is just you, rather than considering moving kids out of their school, selling a house, etc. Young adults also have greater amounts of free time to devote towards church ministries, pursuing more education or training, or traveling.
One thought that crossed my mind years ago was that I would hate to miss life-changing opportunities or unique experiences for purely financial reasons. While I would encourage to starts saving early, I would not want to end up at retirement a miser who hoarded his money but now is unable to do the things that I love to do in my youth. Being able to visit the sites of the Reformation, attending conferences, or serving in various places will bear fruit in my life and ministry for decades to come.