I came across an amazing blog post recently. It was called “Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy”, and if I were the boss of this world, I would make it mandatory reading for everyone. Or at least everyone born between the late 1970s and the mid 1990s.
This article seems so brilliant to me, because it’s something Ben and I have talked about a lot since moving away from camp, so I kinda wish I’d written it myself, because it gives words to many thoughts and questions I’ve had, plus it’s got awesome graphs and illustrations. You should most definitely check it out.
For those of you who won’t read it, I’ll give a basic summary: The idea is that because our parents, the Baby Boomers, have lived such awesome lives, they’ve been really happy – life has exceeded their expectations. So we’ve been taught that life will be even better for us. Plus, we’ve been taught that we’re really, really special. Well, just me. I am special.
But you’ve been taught that you’re very special, too. So all of us are apparently very special, but in reality..we’re all pretty normal. We’re just people.
So anyway, we think life will be AWESOME, and we are soooo special, and we will fulfill all the dreams we have for our future.
But then…life isn’t always awesome and magical, and sometimes we don’t feel very special. Life doesn’t exceed, or sometimes even meet our expectations, so we feel unhappy.
Add to that….social media. Now we have countless ways to see how other people are living the awesome, magical, special life we expected, so we feel even more unhappy. Meanwhile, there is a very good chance that they aren’t living it either, but are putting lots of effort into making it look as though they are living that awesome, perfect life.
It’s all a bit of a mess. And I didn’t use any stick figure diagrams or unicorn graphs to help explain all of this, which is why I really recommend reading the original article.
But in the meantime, I’ll give you the version Ben and I discussed when we left camp:
First of all, I thought we ended up at Red Rock Bible Camp because we were “special” – Ben was hired because God must have some amazing purpose for us there that no one else could possibly fill, and we would do great and wonderful things. (Ben says that makes him sound very cocky and full of himself, but that’s not what I mean. What I’m trying to say is that I had totally bought into the idea that God did have a really amazing plan for us, and obviously we must have been created for just such an opportunity, and of course it would be more than we could ask or imagine, and all that other stuff we’d been fed in the Christian culture.)
But when we felt it was time to leave camp, and I looked back on our time there, nothing stood out as being earth-shatteringly wonderful. We had done our best, we weathered some hard times, we loved the good times, we enjoyed that season of life very much.
God definitely did some great things, and we enjoyed many wonderful relationships full of blessings and growth. But there were no unicorns.
I had always thought that when we left camp, we would move on to bigger and better ministry opportunities, because that’s how it goes, right? Always onward and upward.
But then we felt called to do something other than full-time ministry.
So Ben started working with his dad, which was good…but not magical. He spent a lot of time at a desk, and learned a ton of stuff, but it didn’t make him feel very special, or very miraculously gifted. He wasn’t really changing the world, although he was bringing home a paycheck.
It was a hard transition to go from a job that was easy and natural for him, involving tons of interaction with people, to a job that was completely unfamiliar for him, and didn’t provide the social interaction he had grown so accustomed to at camp. It wasn’t something we’d dreamed about, and it didn’t have anything to do with the full-time ministry opportunities we’d imagined for our future.
During those first months, we talked a lot about how work has changed over the years. It used to be that if your dad was a farmer, you’d grow up to be a farmer. None of this “What was I created for? How can I fulfill my unique, special, awesome purpose?”
It was as though we needed to learn that life is what you make it, and getting a paycheck is actually a huge blessing. And maybe Ben was not fulfilling every rainbow-coloured dream behind a desk, but he was learning, and spending time with his dad, and he was stepping forward in the opportunity that presented itself. Fortunately, building houses is something he was interested in. If it hadn’t been, could he have been content?
It feels as though we’ve been bombarded with this message that success means having a really good paying job which you love so much, you’d do it for free. It means God will bless you wildly, and life will always exceed your expectations, and your influence will know no bounds, and you’d better have huge dreams, because God will fill them all.
And this seems to be a common idea – Ben and I have had many conversations with people who truly believe that if life isn’t wildly awesome, they must be in the wrong place.
But on Sunday, the speaker at church shared about how 150 doctors recently felt called to go Syria to serve. Less than 40 of them have survived, and now another 150 have stepped forward, saying God has called them to go, as well. What future awaits them? It doesn’t seem to look too promising.
How does that fit with this awesome life we’re all supposed to have? If God would call me to go straight into danger, right now, and I would know there was little chance of surviving, would I go? Would I feel as though my life-purpose had been fulfilled at the age of 35?
I’m having trouble figuring out how to fit this all into my brain.
Basically, it comes down to this:
1) I don’t have a clue.
My spoiled, sheltered, comfortable life has gotten me thinking that this is the way it is – that all this wonderful, super privileged life may not even be good enough for me. I need to dream bigger dreams, and expect better things from God.
What??! Tell that to doctors sacrificing their life, because God asks them to. I have much to learn.
2) I’m not special.
I’m a regular person, living life with a lot of other regular people.
But I’m God’s child. Whatever happens to come my way, whether it’s what I hoped for or not, will pass through His hand, and that’s more than enough for me.
3) God is in everything.
We’re not living the flashy, dramatic, awesomely exciting ministry-filled life I dreamed about. Normal life seems to keep happening, and blessings keep coming, but sometimes they’re really small. We have to keep our eyes open, or we might miss them.
Ben’s job is a blessing, his paycheck is a blessing, this normal life is a blessing, and this last year and a half has shown us that we can be joyful anywhere, no matter what we’re doing. Our dreams for the future may come to pass, and they may not. There may not be unicorns or rainbows. And that’s okay. “Normal” is actually quite awesome. “Flashy” can be very overrated.
Now I’m curious: What are your thoughts on this? Is there too much emphasis on being special, and living a big, exciting life? Are you able to be content with very normal, everyday circumstances, or do you find yourself wishing for more rainbows and unicorns?