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Just Do Something

By Kevin DeYoung

In the book After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings are Shaping the Future of American Religion, Robert Wuthnow describes 21-45 year olds as tinkerers.[1]  Our grandparents built.  Our parents boomed.  And my generation?  We tinker.  Of course, as Wuthnow points out, tinkering is not all bad.  Those who tinker know how to improvise, specialize, pull things apart, and pull people together from a thousand different places.  But tinkering also means indecision, contradiction, and instability.  We are seeing a generation of young people grow up (sort of) who tinker with doctrines, tinker with churches, tinker with girl friends and boy friends, tinker with majors, tinker living in and out of their parent's basement, and tinker with spiritual practices no matter how irreconcilable or divergent.  We're not consistent.  We're not stable.  We don't stick with anything.  We have buyer's regret on most everything.  We can't make decisions.  And we don't follow through.  All of this means that as Christian young people we are less fruitful and less faithful than we ought to be.

Granted, youth comes with a significant amount of, well, youthfulness.  And with youthfulness comes indecision and instability. Young adults who tinker are not confined to any one generation.  Baby Boomers, and probably even Builders, tinkered around with God and life when they were young adults.  The difference, however, with my generation is that young adulthood keeps getting longer and longer.  It used to be that thirty seemed old and far removed from youth, but now it is not uncommon to hear of folks "coming of age" at forty. 

Consider this one statistic: in 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men completed all the major transitions into adulthood by age 30.  These transitions include leaving home, finishing school, becoming financially independent, getting married, and having a child.  By 2000, only 46 percent of woman completed these transitions by age 30, and only 31 percent of men.[2]  It's stunning for me to think that less than a third of men my age are done with school, out of the house, married with kids, and have a job that pays the bills.  Adultolescence is the new normal.

Now, I know there are lots of good reasons why someone may still be in school past 30.  After all, multiple degrees take time.  And I realize there are legitimate reasons a thirty year old might have to live with his parents (e.g., illness, unexpected unemployment, or divorce).  Concerning marriage, maybe you have the gift of celibacy.  And as for a family, maybe you've been trying to have kids but can't.  There are lots of reasons for delayed adulthood.  I understand that.  Just because you've been on the planet a third to half your life and still haven't completed "the transition" to adulthood, doesn't mean you're automatically a moocher, a lazy bum, or a self-indulgent vagabond.

But it could be.  It is possible that your "unparalleled freedom to roam, experiment, learn (or not), move on, and try again" has not made you wiser, cultured, or more mature.[3]  Perhaps our free spirits need less freedom and more faithfulness.  Maybe your emerging adulthood should, I don't know, emerge.
The hesitancy so many of us (especially the young) feel in making decisions and settling down in life is related to our constant search for the will of God.  For starters, the "unparalleled freedom" new generations enjoy (or at least think they enjoy) is part of the reason there is always a market for will of God books.  Nothing is settled after high school or even college anymore.  Life is wide open and filled with endless possibilities, but with this sense of opportunity comes confusion, anxiety, and indecision.  With everything I could do and everywhere I could go, how can I know what's what?  Enter a passion to discern "God's will for my life." 

Likewise, "finding the will of God" has become an accomplice in the postponement of growing up, a convenient out for the young (or old) Christian floating through life without direction or purpose.  Too many of us have passed off our instability, inconsistency, and endless self-exploration as "looking for God's will," as if not making up our minds and meandering through life were marks of spiritual sensitivity.  As a result, we are full of passivity and empty on follow through. 

The will of God isn't a special direction here or a bit of secret knowledge there.  God doesn't put us in a maze, turn out the lights, and tell us "Get out and good luck."  In one sense, we trust in the will of God as his sovereign plan for our future.  In another sense, we obey the will of God as his good word for our lives.  In no sense should we be scrambling around trying to turn to the right page in our personal choose-your-own-adventure novel.  God's will for our lives is simple: our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3).  If we seek first God's kingdom and his righteousness, we'll be smack dab in the center of God's will, and everything else that really matters will be added unto us.

The madcap search for the elusive will of God ends up being, for too many Christians, nothing but a pathway to passivity, second guessing, and ineffectiveness.  With the love of Jesus in our hearts and the wisdom of Scripture in our heads, we need to stop tinkering around with everyone and everything, take some responsibility, make a decision, and just do something.

[1] Robert Wuthnow.  After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings Are Shaping the Future of American Religion (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007).
[2] Ibid., 11.
[3] The line in quotes comes from Christian Smith, "Get a Life: The Challenge of Emerging Adulthood," Books & Culture, November/December 2007,10.

Kevin DeYoung is the author of Just Do Something A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will  (Moody Publishers 2009) and the senior pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, across the street from Michigan State University. A graduate of Hope College and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, he serves on the executive team of RCA Integrity, a renewal group within the Reformed Church of America. DeYoung is coauthor of Why We're Not Emergent. He and his wife, Trisha, have three children.