You’re not a twentysomething anymore. Now what? Are you outgrowing your faith like the fashions of your youth? It happens.
In their thirties, a lot of people consolidate a circle of friends that still feel right (and hope they don’t move away), get married, find a halfway decent job to which they commit for one reason or another, and save their money for fun. Jesus gets squeezed out of their limited time. He was one of their many twentysomething activities. But he never became the friend, the partner, the vocation, the fun.
If any of that is even halfway true of you or someone you care about, is there any hope for having faith when one grows up? I think so. Here are six ways to keep or restart your faith if you find it lacking in your adulthood.
1) Start over, even in the church you’ve got.
The other day a friend said she wanted to do something…finally. She was over the trauma of moving to town. She had the new job. She had found her favorite restaurants. She even had a boyfriend. Then she realized she had to get started! She now needed her life and she was sure that life had to do with Jesus.
If you are inspired like she is, it means changing; and change is hard. The need for change uncovers how lazy we all are — it is like the original sin. M. Scott Peck’s famous quote says that evil is laziness carried to its ultimate, extraordinary extreme.
Truly evil people … actively rather than passively avoid extending themselves. They will take any action in their power to protect their own laziness, to preserve the integrity of their sick self. Rather than nurturing others, they will actually destroy others in this cause. If necessary, they will even kill to escape the pain of their own spiritual growth. As the integrity of their sick self is threatened by the spiritual health of those around them, they will seek by all manner of means to crush and demolish the spiritual health that may exist near them (The Road Less Travelled, 1978).
My friend has the insight to know she needs to start over and has the guts to do something. She is also kind of scared not to! You don’t have to move to a new state, new church or new friendship circle to start over. You have to not be lazy.
Many twentysomethings love the church because their friends do. Any number of people in Circle of Hope like to be a part of our community even though they don’t like the founder of it: Jesus! But they get to a point where the relationships change, there is conflict, or people just grow up. Then they need a relationship with God, not just nice people. It is time to learn to pray. We need to learn a method for connecting with our natural aptitude for “the inner life, that simplicity of our childhood once our adult minds have become overly complex and busy.”
That’s what Cynthia Bourgeault says in Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening (2004). Some people have never read her book or any book about spiritual disciplines. They have never personally learned to pray and rely on others to do it for them. They come to a church meeting and let a leader make them pray. That’s not adult enough.
3) Get a spiritual direction
Repent. Turn a new, Jesus-following direction – not like you used to think about spirituality, but in ways your heart and mind tell you to move now. Think and feel about how you think and feel spiritually. Enough said, for now.
4) Get some spiritual directors.
Adult faith is not singular. Maybe in your twenties you needed to assert your own identity. Adulthood requires community and help. Therapy might be a good place to start. Retreat centers often have someone who wishes someone would come by so they could listen to them and help them listen to God. Our Pastors, Cell Leader Coordinators, and Cell Leaders can listen or help you find someone who can. Your cell or another group you form will help. Having a good friend in Christ will help, too, but we cannot always rely on people who are attached to us to be detached enough to see and tell the truth we need. Your spouse can be helpful, but not enough. Make a life-giving connection somewhere.
5) Get some buy in.
Like I said, adult faith requires community. The biggest reason people back-burner their faith, and often lose it altogether, is because they have to fight for it — and they are sleeping with the person with whom they are fighting! Any number of spouses have decided Jesus is the lover with whom they are in competition and they say, “Jesus or me!”
So have an honest talk about your desire to be a Christian with your intimates and get their support. Even if they are unbelievers, they probably love you enough to help you. If your faith is secret or private, it will probably end up strangled.
6) Serve. Give. Commit.
The thirties are sort of a proving ground. It is time for integrity. Do you count? Does what you say matter? Do you know for what God has laid hold of you?
Time is short. The assignment of transformation takes a long time. We need to do something. (If you are a twentysomething reading this, it is not too early. If you are past forty, it is not too late). Plus, our resources are limited. We need to make the most of them. When we are up against sickness, addiction, relationship problems, or failure, it is hard to have faith. And who is not up against one or more of those things on a given day? We need to make the most of our time and limited resources to live in a way that matters.
The easiest way to look at doing this is to “give what you are given.” Sometimes we want to wait until we have what we should have or we are who we should be before we give. That’s a long wait. Serve where you are stationed. Waiting for the ideal situation or job could be a long wait. Make indefinite commitments now. No one knows what tomorrow will bring. Engage your heart in the present, not in the idealized future.
The thirties are often a very difficult era. But they don’t need to be a time to endure with gritted teeth. For the Jesus-follower, they are often the beginning of their richest era of spiritual development. But you’ll have to grow into it, not just outgrow your previous faith.