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A Waste of Youth

A Waste of Youth

When the amount of kegger parties, one-night stands, road trips and video games drastically outweigh the amount of rules, responsibilities, marriages or mortgages to uphold, the twentysomething lifestyle is one big adventure to be had before real life begins (somewhere presumably around 32-ish). Sadly, it seems our culture is missing out on a deeper spiritual adventure designed for days of our youth.

This "I’ll wait till I’m older" philosophy saturates the spirituality of a generation who grew up fed on instant-everything. From Pop-Tarts and Sesame Street to Twitter and Tumblr, we’ve been programmed to focus on what ails us now, saving the more complex questions and commitments of life for tomorrow.

To make matters worse, if the Church was honest, well, they’d agree with our rationale. It pastored us when we were young, effortlessly mixing the Gospel message with popsicle sticks, animal crackers and fruit punch. But then it kind of lost touch, offering to welcome us back once we are married and have a kid, knowing that both changes might freak us out just enough to question whether we should be living for something other than just ourselves. And so the cycle repeats.

Jamie Cullum, a cocky, energetic young pop-jazz artist from Britain (who everyone should give a listen to before their day is through) sums the sentiments of our generation up best in his song, “Twentysomething”:

After years of expensive education
A car full of books and anticipation
I’m an expert on Shakespeare and that’s a hell of a lot
But the world don’t need scholars as much as I thought
Maybe I’ll go traveling for a year
Finding myself, or start a career
I could work for the poor, though I’m hungry for fame
We all seem so different but we’re just the same
Maybe I’ll go to the gym, so I don’t get fat
Aren’t things more easy, with a tight six pack
Who knows the answers, who do you trust
I can’t even separate love from lust
Maybe I’ll move back home and pay off my loans
Working nine to five, answering phones
But don’t make me live for my Friday nights
Drinking eight pints and getting in fights
Don’t wanna get up, just have a lie in
Leave me alone, I’m a twentysomething
Maybe I’ll just fall in love
That could solve it all
Philosophers say that that’s enough
There surely must be more
Love ain’t the answer, nor is work
The truth eludes me so much it hurts
But I’m still having fun and I guess that’s the key
I’m a twentysomething and I’ll keep being me

It seems like everyone from songwriters to religious institutions have let us off the hook. We can ditch our parents’ religion, be OK with Jesus, maybe even go to church, and in the meantime, numb our existence away without anyone giving us too much of a guilt trip until we’re in our 30s. After all, if it’s anything Occupy Wall Street communicated despite its ambiguity, it’s that right now we’re all feeling a little forgotten, abandoned, deceived and confused. The economy, our college education, the Church—they’ve all failed us, so the best thing to do right now is stay put, look out for number one and wait for things to change. A Jesus-like lifestyle, with all of its disciplines and responsibilities, is the last thing anyone in his or her 20s would want to voluntarily opt into. There’s plenty of time for that later, so what’s the danger?

The danger is surrendering to the pervading misconception that these years are best spent dead versus alive. The danger is believing the adventure of the Jesus-lifestyle is better suited for those closer to the grave than those still a long ways off. History was built on the efforts of young men and women free from the stresses of age who were willing to die for what they believed in, who weren’t preoccupied with trying to frame whatever that belief was into 140 characters; people who converted their strength, vitality and youthful optimism into action, pouring it all over the world they were changing with everything they had. Scripture itself is full of these examples. From Jeremiah and Samuel to David and Peter, these brave young souls, initially overlooked by those older than them, boldly stepped into human history and created the future.

And yet we waste the years where we can run the farthest and the fastest without anything weighing us down—not another beer, another fling, another game. We’re cheating the destiny in front of our eyes, afraid of the discipline this new lifestyle would demand of us (a discipline worth learning now rather than later when the stakes are higher).

This conversation is not meant to evoke guilt or shame. Chances are, at the bottom of what’s keeping you from this adventure are those very things. We don’t always hear this, but Jesus didn’t come to turn sinners into saints, He came to bring life to the dead. This is not about doing. It’s about trying. It’s about being. It’s about putting on the identity of Christ—today, now, at this very moment in human history.

Right now, in this very space in time, at an age where we are most alive, our free and able bodies have the chance to embody the person of Jesus, who made the sick well, brought peace in the midst of chaos and injustice and made dead things come alive.

We have a chance to stand directly in the middle of a culture obsessed with boyhood and demonstrate manhood, defy a culture that praises self-centered daddy’s girls and demonstrate womanly beauty and strength.

Most of all, we have freedom. We have the freedom to dream, to try, to learn and to fail more than we ever will in our lifetime. Doesn’t it then seem better suited for us to spend this season climbing the mountain, enduring its rough terrain, rather than pacing back and forth at camp while our bones slowly soften?

CJ Casciotta is a brand architect, writer, artist and creativepioneer with a passion for raising a new generation of innovativeleaders and forward thinkers. He is the president of CREATE CULTURE, abrand consulting agency, and the founder of SOUNDS LIKE A MOVEMENT, anonprofit that helps people engage their local communities. CJ hasconsulted organizations like Whole Foods, The Salvation Army, INORecords & ROCKHARBOR, and has been featured on MTV, VH1 and JCTV. 

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