What’s the worst thing that can happen to you in your twenties?
Is it debt? A cubicle job? The first signs of retroactive puberty setting in?
These are all strong candidates, but while watching the movie The Words, starring Bradley Cooper as wanna-be-writer Rory, I think I found the answer.
Rory’s in his twenties, and he works long, painful hours late at night on his passion project, a book. After years of writing and working, he submits the manuscript to agents and the rejection letters begin to trickle in. Some agents read it and think it’s well done, but he still can’t get anyone to take a chance on him (to say I could relate to this movie would be an understatement).
So one day, he ends up stumbling across a manuscript someone else wrote stuffed in an old briefcase. He then plays it off as his own writing and gets the book published, which becomes an international best-seller.
For the rest of the movie he’s then plagued with anxiety and an overwhelming ache because people praise him for words that were never his.
He took the shortcut, and it nearly kills him and all his relationships because of it.
If Only I Knew Now
How many times in my twenties did I pray for that shortcut to magically appear? Not an unethical one, but just a clearer, quicker path to reach my dreams.
I mean, no one yearns for life to be incredibly hard, right?
Not many people I know plead for God “to bless them” with incredibly difficult trials that will stretch and pull you until you feel like breaking.
No, for most my twenties I was crying out to God, “Where are you?!”
Similar to the movie The Words, my dream was to publish a book. I wanted to tell my honest story of how confusing and difficult my twenties were to offer truth, hope and hilarity for all of us struggling down the same road.
Now 10 years later, I hold this book in my hands, All Groan Up- Searching for Self, Faith, and A Freaking Job! (which releases April 21st, 2015).
It took me 10 years to see this book happen. 3,650 days. A third of my life.
Those 10 years were laced with so many failures: quitting many times over, re-writing the edits of my re-write, working back in a cubicle, working back at the dream, trying to live in a retirement home to film a documentary, relationship debacles, a fire that almost burnt down my house and every other twist and turn of “God, where are you in this?” that I write about in All Groan Up.
But as I look back on my twenties, and the long, jagged path it took for me to get here, I now fully understand this one truth:
The worst thing that can happen to you in your twenties would be if it were easy.
No Easy Way Out
I prayed over and over, “Here I am, Lord! Send me!” and sat still waiting, growing more frustrated with every day. I became bitter with God’s clear “lack” of faithfulness, when all God was trying to do was teach me how to use my own legs so I could actually walk next to Him.
I wanted to do something big, while God wanted me to learn how to be faithful in the small. I wanted to change the world from a safe, secure place without having to change myself. What kind of loving Father would God be if He let me encase myself in comfortable and complacency? I’d probably resemble something like George Constanza from Seinfield, the highlight of my life being naps under my desk, cocooned in velvet.
Instead I was given the opportunity to work harder. To study longer. To strategize, hustle, struggle, and grow. I was stretched and I broke, which somehow made me more whole.
My skill set would be so anemic if my dreams would’ve worked out as seamlessly as I hoped.
I was forced to learn skills like blogging, social media, web programming, web design, networking, etc. If things would’ve worked out like I planned, then I wouldn’t possess 90 percent of the skills I now use every day.
One-hit wonders only have one hit because they are smacked in the face by success, and have never built the strength it took to sustain it.
If you have to hike the long road up the mountain over and over again, your legs are going to be much stronger than if you took a helicopter to get to the top. And then what amazing intricacies and views would we have missed if we never had to struggle up the path?
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 5:3-5 “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us …”
Hope is the stability of life during the tumultuous tidal waves.
Now, I don’t know where you sit right as you read this–whether it’s at the beginning of the climb, the perceived top of the mountain, or in some lonely ditch along the way.
But let me toss up one prayer of thankfulness for us all: Thank you God that our twenties are hard. It’s because of the struggle, not in spite of it, that we will find faith, strength, HOPE, and purpose.
Now don’t get me wrong, this prayer of thankfulness is not a polite hymn. No, it’s a shout with your face on the floor. It’s a David from the back of the cave. It’s a Daniel staring at the jaws of that lion. It’s an Esther the moment before she enters the king’s room to make a request that very well may get her killed.
Our thankfulness is not one birthed out of what God is “doing” for us at the moment, but for who God is viewed through the lens of eternity.
When the way you thought you should go is blocked, you have to learn to try new ways and find a tangible faith you didn’t know existed.
You have to lean into, and depend on, the unseen promises of Hope.
The bigger the promise, the more intense the preparation.
Thank God He has removed the shortcuts. Because like Bradley Cooper’s character in The Words, the shortcut doesn’t take you to your true destination, it keeps you from it.