Three Pillars of Adulthood

The path to adult status is highly individual now and therefore, demands custom parenting. Most college and post-college students seem able to build one or two pillars but it’s a rare kid who can secure all three before age 30.

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Independence – Defined as the “final” time kids move out, need zero financial assistance and begin to flourish

Marriage – Those few who are able to navigate the bizarre dating scene and resist the flow of culture

Career – The challenge of aligning gifts, education and compensation in a satisfying niche.

If you have four children, statistics predict that only one will complete the pillars in their twenties. Parenting late adolescents therefore, takes on more significance than ever before. Most of us feel confused and trapped in constant tension- that place between what it was like when we grew up and what it is now.

You’re not alone.

Here’s a question I challenge you with:

When the future we’d envisioned for our kids doesn’t play out “correctly,” what happens to our faith?

This is where the tables turn. Where it becomes more about us than about….the kids. It’s a call to enter the deep mystery of God. Uncomfortable. Scary. Confusing. But only for a time….as long as it takes God to convert our focus from “kid drama” to Himself.

You’ll recognize parents who’ve been through this. They’re humble and okay with mystery, steady and persevering, quiet with no easy answers.

Check out Hagar- the Egyptian servant of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 16 and 21. She’s desperate and without hope and now she has a child. At the point of utter desolation, she discovers two things about God:

God sees me….

God hears my child crying….


Arranged Marriage

Find a set of railroad tracks and put your ear to the rail. Feel it? A distant hum, a low vibration. Arranged marriage is coming.

This is not your mama’s version nor an extraction from eastern nations nor taken from the tradition of Jewish matchmaking. Fiddler on the Roof anyone?

“Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match. Find me a find, catch me a catch. Matchmaker, matchmaker look through your book and make me a perfect match.” (Fiddler on the Roof)

Today’s digital information panorama has so confused the waters that our former straight shot to marriage now resembles the Mississippi River: muddy and winding, it even went backwards once. Consider the sand bars that the late adolescent must navigate around if they ever hope to get downstream and achieve this traditional marker of adulthood:

Loss of Confidence – Divorce has rocked the stability of the institution of marriage

Loss of Wonder – Pornography and Erotica (literature designed to arouse) are two sides of the same coin and have destroyed the hidden wonder of intimacy, a magnet that use to pull people towards marriage

Loss of the Trades – Skilled labor (manufacturing, construction, business) is out of favor, giving way to an endless forage into ‘education.’ One now needs a graduate level degree to match what used to be gained by a bachelor’s. This results in debt and the delay of traditional adulthood accomplishments (career, marriage, family)

Loss of Financial Recovery – The phenomenon of student loan debt is a cultural monster, often fed by forces beyond a student’s ability to process. 18-year-old optimism can suddenly become a 23-year-old’s disillusionment.

One thing is sure:

The short-timed social era where farms were abandoned for cities, where kids had nothing immediate to do other than to create an adolescent bubble, hang out, fall in love and get married….is long gone.

The complex world of sexuality, where students often spend 15 or more years in adult-ready-bodies, requires your help. It’s possible that this challenge may be partially met by arranged marriage, coaches and mentors who deeply enter the lives of single professionals. One thing is certain. Risk taking almost always carries a gender expression. If you’re meeting with a young man or young woman, your advice- if followed- will usually lead to godly masculinity or femininity.

But beware of the extremes as they generally backfire:

Extreme #1 – Where one’s reputation for match-making is so ambitious that it becomes their identity. Young singles sense this a mile away and cross to the other side of the street.

Extreme #2 – Buying into the old mantra that students should finish school, land a career, pay off student loan debt, save a gazillion dollars and buy a house- all before marriage. Good luck doing this before 40.

So, what could godly coaching look like?

  • Let God bring it to you. As you work with students and single professionals, work on first things first. Their love for God and his community
  • Pray for their private lives, including their deep longings for marriage
  • Assign risks in areas where their behavior seems counter to what they really want
  • Demonstrate trust in God as you overcome your own stage-of-life fears through faith
  • Invite them to activities where significant interaction with marriages and families occur
  • Point out a good match from time to time for them to process godly character
  • On rare occasions, arrange a blind date

Because of an increasingly complex culture, customized coaching is a growing need for our younger generations.

Why Heaven Seems Boring

Pick a student- any student- and ask them what heaven will be like. Watch their face, their eyes and their body language as they struggle to answer. Then compare that to Huckleberry Finn, when the rigid Miss Watson attempts to strong-arm him towards good behavior by threatening him with hell.

“Now she had got a start, and she went on and told me all about the good place. She said all a body would have to do there was to go around all day long with a harp and sing, forever and ever. So I didn’t think much of it. But I never said so. I asked her if she reckoned Tom Sawyer would go there, and she said, not by a considerable sight. I was glad about that, because I wanted him and me to be together.” (Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 5-6)

Mike Wittmer sides with Huckleberry and rocks our end-game notions with a thorough treatment of the Bible:

 “Huckleberry Finn is right: Heaven does sound boring. Who wants to go there? We are not cut out for the clouds. We don’t make very good angels. Humans weren’t made for heaven. As wonderful as it will be to praise God in his celestial glory, there is still one thing better- to kneel in the presence of God with the bodies he created us to have in the place he created us to live.” (Heaven is a Place on Earth – Michael Wittmer, 138/4056)

Challenge yourself with these assertions:

1.  Heaven is not the end-game, but rather, a stopping off point on a round trip ticket

2.  We were created from the earth and for earth

3.  The new earth is our final destination, free from the curse, flourishing with endless possibilities

4.  The presence of Jesus makes the new earth…heaven

Wittmer’s two books on the subject, 1) Heaven is a Place on Earth and 2) Becoming Worldly Saints will give you confidence as you upgrade your vision about the future. And this is what our kids need.

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Think back to your greatest experience in nature. A Lake Michigan sunset? A mountain hike? Snorkeling a reef? What was it about that God-invaded-moment that beat playing harps and singing all day? Wittmer would contend that three things joined to give you a small taste of what is coming your way: God’s presence, your body and your place.

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- are clearly seen, being understood from what has been made…..” (Romans 1:20)