Reflections- Guest Post From Adam Keeton
One thing Adam Swensen and I have in common is our passion for our generation. In fact, I’m pretty sure that is what brought us together in the first place. One day we will meet, but until then, we remain proximally distant allies in this battle for our generation.
Being a senior in college now, I am simultaneously looking ahead to my future job and looking back at what I have learned. Graduation is in May, and I am now starting to make plans for the future. I refuse to go back home and be a couch-bum living off of my parent’s money at 23 years old! I have already started applying for jobs.
A problem originates when I am applying for jobs. You see, God has called me to the ministry, so the application process is a tad more complicated than applying for a job elsewhere. Okay, so it is a TON more complicated than applying to a job elsewhere, because I can’t really talk myself up like you would in a typical job interview. In addition to humility, there is that whole spiritual component as well—if God tells the people not to hire me, I don’t get hired. (I know that if God doesn’t want you to get a typical job, you won’t get it either, but the fact that dozens if not hundreds of people are praying about whether or not to hire me adds an additional component, I would think.)
But the cool part is, the job title for one of the position I am apply for reads: “Next Generation Pastor.” It isn’t “Youth Pastor,” “Children’s Pastor,” “Young Adult Pastor,” or even “Student Pastor,” but “Next Generation Pastor.” How cool is that? I can only pray that God leads me as he will. I ask you to join with me in that prayer.
While I am looking forward, I am also looking back at all I have learned. So much has happened in the past few years. Who I am now is definitely who I was my freshman year of college. I grew a lot in high school, granted, but I feel I have learned so much more in my years at college.
That’s what so great about being a young adult: you really find out who you are. I figured I would take this time to highlight some of what I have learned over the years and give some advice on what to do for those of you young adults who are in college or career field or those in high school about to enter the young adult world (and maybe some of your older people who remain teachable).
“Always remain teachable”
I was given this advice from my Children’s Pastor at my home church before going off to college. He told me, “Adam, no matter where you are, no matter how much you know, you can always learn more. Look for opportunities to learn and never think you know more than the person you are talking to. God can use even someone younger than you to teach you something big.” It was solid advice I hold tight to this day. I pass this information onto you as well.
Try new things
I’m pretty sure Tim wrote about this a while back. During your years as a young adult is a perfect time to find yourself and experiment. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Branch out and try new food, visit a place you have never been to before, change your wardrobe a bit.
But let me caution you: don’t go overboard. Diligently pray about what changes you should make because you always have people watching you. I started to change some things about myself that causes some of my younger brothers in Christ to stumble. I made some inappropriate changes in my behaviors and life-choices that I thought it was okay (and to me they honestly were okay) but they caused someone else to slip-up because they followed suit. Always remember that there are little feet behind you that are sure to follow (to quote Casting Crowns).
Make God your focus
It’s really easy when you venture out on your own to start doing your own thing. Seriously, that’s fine! Have fun! Be creative and discover the person God made you to be! The key lies in this: remember who GOD made you to be. One of the biggest epiphanies God ever gave me was:
Adam, it’s not about you.
This life, this vapor I am living in, is nothing. I can try to make a difference and change the world, but in reality, I am a single human being on a planet with 7 billion other human beings—not counting all the billions of humans that have existed before me and will be born after me. How can my simple little life really make that much of a difference?
As I look at the little babies in my church, I think that their lives are just beginning; who knows who they will become? They could be greater than me one day! The trick is to impact those lives around you. As the boy said trying to save the starfish, “It matters to this one.” Don’t try to make an impact on the world around you, just impact those who you are closest to. You will probably not change the world, but you will change the life of one person, and that is enough.
Even when you are trying to make an impact, remember this valuable truth:
I am not a world-changer. God is.
I cannot change someone’s life. God can.
God is the one who can do anything. I just want to be a part of his plan, whatever that may be. If he asked me to mop the floor for his Kingdom, I would be so excited to do it! I understand what David was talking about in the psalms when he said “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (Psalm 84:10) If God doesn’t choose me to change the world, then that’s fine. I am just thankful to be included in the body, even if I am an armpit hair.
Keep pressing on
The epiphany above didn’t just happen; it took years of diligence to get to where I am. Every person I know who has grown up in church (including myself) has experiences a dry period. Hearing the same message about God over and over again tends to get redundant and boring sometimes, let’s be honest. Just the other day I was listening to an audio book talk about idols and my first thought was, “Ugh! Idols! I have heard so many things about idols! How much more can we talk about them!” But as I listened, I was convicted yet again about idols and how I should tear some of them out of my life.
The trick, as a mature Christian, is to find the nuggets of wisdom. Being raised in church, there isn’t much we haven’t heard preached or at least talked about. The Bible is a big book, yes, but in my 22 years, I have heard most all of it preached. What I haven’t heard preached, I have studied myself through various small groups, Bible studies, and Sunday school. The trick is to go deeper into the text. It took me having to learn Greek before the Bible came alive to me in a totally different light. Find the way that you can dig deeper into the texts and really wrestle with the hard concepts of your faith.
Even when we are looking for nuggets, we still experience dry spells where our faith just seems dry. We try and try and try, but the passion seems gone. It’s not that we aren’t convicted by God, quite the opposite—we would love to feel convicted by God because at least we are feeling SOMETHING! The dry areas are often the hardest parts of our walks. For me, this happened my sophomore year. But I encourage you: be diligent, be patient, and have faith. God will work it out in the end.
Don’t let the dark times get you down. Remember this is a season of your life. Sometimes you just need to push though the desert before you can get to the tropical paradise on the other side. It doesn’t mean you have lost your faith. It doesn’t mean you are a sinner. Sometimes we go through questionable seasons to force us to rely on God. Remember just like love, real faith isn’t an emotion, but acting in spite of how we feel. God loved us so much through the pain he felt. Faith is pressing on even when we don’t feel like we are doing it right.
Wrestle with the big things
Take this time in your life to really wrestle with what you believe. Many people say, “Well, I will decide that for myself later.” Well, when is “later”? Why not make it now when you have many other peers who are wrestling with the same things? Being at a secular school, I REALLY got to wrestle with some things I believed—both in class and out of class, and for that I am eternally grateful to God. I greatly believe my faith as been “forged through fire”, as Peter put it in 1 Peter 1:7. Now, I feel ready to take on anything!
Some people will argue with me on this, and that is fine, but I believe you can’t experience true faith without a little doubt. Doubt is a good thing as long as it pushes you to figure out the Truth. It’s okay to question what you believe—in fact, I encourage it. If you don’t question what you believe, how can you “always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you?” (1 Peter 3:15)
Wow, this post has gotten long! Well, I hope that you got something out of it. I pray God blesses you as you go throughout your week. I love you all, and with you the best!
Following His Call,