The Wandering Thirty-Somethings

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What do I want to do with my life?  If I could capture the thirty-somethings in a single sentence, that would be it.  Sure, you think about this question from time to time before you’re thirty, but it’s always with an air of optimistic ambition.  Mommy, I want to be a princess.  I want to be an astronaut.  Maybe I’ll be a doctor.  Or a novelist.  Then college rolls around and let’s be honest, you’re a little distracted by all the cute coeds, and you major in something fascinating but less-than-marketable like sociology or humanities.  Or, you get that accounting degree, and realize crunching numbers isn’t as fulfilling as you’d hoped.  And if, somewhere along this journey you also get married, it only becomes more complicated.  You may be one of the fortunate few who’s found their niche in a field they love, while your spouse is the barista with a Humanities degree.

One way or another, you find yourself going through the motions with an irritating sense of dissatisfaction.  What do I want to do with my life?  The question is no longer dusted with optimism, so much as frayed with panic.  If you’re a Christian, you may phrase it a little differently: What does God want me to do with my life?  Yes, we know the biblical commands.  He wants us to be holy, to love Him more than anything else, to make disciples of all nations.  But specifically, what does He want me to do?  How does He want me to fulfill His commands?  As a godly doctor, a missionary, a piano teacher?  How??  

And so emerge an array of different thirty-something approaches.  There are the Plodders, who accept the fact that work and passion may not fit in the same sentence.  They work in order to do the things they are passionate about.  Then there are the Risk-Takers.  They are the start-your-own-business, move-across-the-globe, take-a-year-off-and-write-that-book kind of people, who would rather try and fail then settle for ho-hum.  There are the ADD Go-Getters who find a new career calling every thirty days.  The In-Transition-ers who live in a constant state of waiting.  Waiting for the kids to get a little older, the savings account to get a little heftier, the right door to swing open.  And of course, there are the Frustrated Bloggers, who eat Rice Krispy treats and write to try and make sense of it all.

Naturally, there are exceptions, too.  There are the thirty-somethings who live like the fifty-somethings, with an enviable sense of “arrival.”  Fulfilling job, fat mortgage, deep roots…ah, establishment!  I will confess, this is the life I long for.  As a former missionary kid who often felt rootless, I long to put roots down so deeply it takes the apocalypse to lift them.  But in the midst of the thirty-something what-do-I-do-with-my-life epidemic, I have found one comfort worth treasuring: Wandering can be worshipful.

I think there are two types of wandering in the Bible.  There is the godless, Israelite-like wandering as a result of unbelief.  This wandering is truly aimless, and unless something changes, hopeless.  But there is also a nomadic type of wandering in the Bible.  Abraham living in tents.  Jacob sleeping on a stone.  Joseph sitting in prison 200 miles from home.  Surely, each of them must have felt just a little bit lost sometimes.  Uncertain, clueless, and even afraid.  But unlike the Israelites in the desert, each of these men allowed their endless not-knowing to drive them to desperate dependence on Someone Greater than themselves.

Wandering has the ability to cripple our sense of sufficiency.  To expose our vulnerability.  To toss us like a drowning child into the arms of God.  In this way, wandering can be worshipful.  It can be a daily song of faith.  What does God want me to do with my life?  Honestly, I don’t exactly know.  I know He wants me to be a wife, and a mother.  To honor Him in all that I do, and with all that I am.  I know He wants me to have a heart like His, burdened for His mission.  But I don’t know a whole lot of details.  And I’m becoming more at peace with that, for three reasons:

I know the character of God.  I know He is faithful yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Dt 7:9).  I know He is flawlessly sovereign (Pro 19:21).  He has not forgotten me, but rather loves me (Ps 103:17), intercedes for me (Rom 8:26), works within me for His good pleasure (Phil 2:13), and has a plan for my life that will bring Himself glory (Jer 29:11).

I know the desires of my heart.  I know that I want to glorify God more than anything else.  I’m not wandering because I’ve closed my spirit to God’s call, hardened my heart in unbelief, or decided to pursue worldly ambitions.  I’m not saying my motives are always pure, but I am saying the cry of my heart is to do whatever God wants me to do.  Therefore, I can have the confidence of I John 5:14-15.  Because I am praying in line with God’s will, asking for His direction for my life, I can rest assured He will hear and answer me.

I know the final destination.  Last of all, I know that one day I will live in that permanently rooted place of endless belonging, for which my soul aches.  It won’t be in sunny Georgia, or Metro Manila, or the heart of Africa.  It will be etched in eternity.  To any other wandering thirty-somethings who love Jesus and are weary in the journey, the final destination is coming.  And when it does, it will be even more satisfying than a fulfilling job, fat mortgage, and fifty-something sense of “arrival.”  It will be true arrival, home.

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10 thoughts on “The Wandering Thirty-Somethings

  1. awenger63

    Jeanne, I love how well you have described my own sense of being a Pilgrim on earth rather than one who is all settled down! I have rarely felt that I fit in perfectly anywhere, but I have known my roots are in God and that I am not home yet. Worshiping Wanderer is a lovely way to describe myself.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Reply
  2. Karen

    Thanks again for another encouraging post. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where I’m going in life. We read David Platt’s “Radical” a few years back and got inspired to move across the country, out of the Bible belt, to a small church in the Northwest. Lately, I’ve been wondering if we did the right thing. I miss my family so much. I definitely feel like a wanderer, not knowing where to go from here. I’m 35. No mortgage, no job (other than being a stay-at-home mom), no money in the bank, no family within a thousand miles, and definitely no sense of arrival.

    I really don’t follow a lot of blogs… with a bunch of little ones I don’t have a lot of time… but I really appreciate your blog. I feel like we are so much on the same page… I think we’d be great friends if we knew each other in real life!

    Reply
    1. jeanneharrison Post author

      I think you’re absolutely right! The funny thing about blogging is I get to feel like I know people I’ve never met. Your story really does strike a chord with me because “wandering” has been one of the hardest aspects of our life to accept. I can completely relate to feeling like you don’t know where to go from here. Thanks for reminding me that I’m not alone. Here’s to meeting one day (and being great friends) on the other side, if not before then!

      Reply
  3. Rachel Lundy

    I understand! We are fellow wanderers. Will and I have lived in 6 different places so far in 11 years of marriage. He is currently finishing up a 2 year ministry position, so we will have another move coming up in the next year. But we have no idea exactly when or where! Have you heard the song, “I Will Go” by Steve Green? It’s a great song and encourages me to persevere and go wherever God calls.

    Reply
  4. a wandering mama

    Thanks for writing yet another uplifting post! We have been wandering for about 14 years now – I used to think it was because we were just getting started (college, marriage, opportunities) but now I am starting to wonder if my whole life will feel like this. Good to know I am not alone and that instead of resenting my husband, begrudging all the changes, and worrying about my children, I need to continue to throw myself at the Savior’s feet. I want my wandering to be worshipful, not aimless. God help me! Thanks, Jeanne!

    Reply
  5. pitchingmytent

    Great blog post. Thanks for sharing. I was talking w/someone just the other day about this phenomenon. I think part of the 30-something epidemic that you’re describing is also a result of lies we’ve been fed as a generation. Specifically, that we can be/do whatever the heck we want & also that we are so very special. We grow up, get our humanities degrees, get married, & hit the real world. Suddenly we find that we cannot do whatever we want & that we really aren’t all that unique. In fact, we find that we have to buckle down just like everyone else & love selflessly through all the mundane (yet glorious) moments of our lives. It can be quite a disheartening realization!

    Reply

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