Far be it from me to be dramatic, but I fear that young people with the absolute best of intentions are flirting with a potentially life-altering mistake. I just made a transition in my ministry realm from teaching college age students, to an entire youth group, and now back to college aged. As an intentional observer of humans I noticed a lot of things, but one particular trend, seemingly influenced by culture, is their desire to “find themselves” as they grow into both more freedom and responsibility. Of course that transition naturally comes as no surprise, but my concern is in how it’s handled. The conviction of my concern remembers what I went through, and asks whether I am speaking to them under the influence of actually grasping the weight of this fork in their road, and the serious implications for what it’s about to do to their futures.
It’s quite possible that we all will go through phases that lead us to points of wanting to “find ourselves” many times in life, but it seems inevitable that we all start somewhere right around that time of stepping out from under our parent’s wings. With that comes exposure and for many, it’s right around here that we experience the first real pain of our lives. It may come from family, other relationships, or even church. Pain is at least one of the main triggers, if not the only one. It causes inward focus by way of questioning what you did to deserve whatever came your way. We cringe and curl back from it only to shortly thereafter stand flat-footed with as much resolve as possible and proclaim that we will never let it happen again.
It’s a fork in the road, and choosing to care about yourself because someone else didn’t can easily seem like everything you should definitely do. We convince ourselves that it’s noble of us, and that we’re only temporarily focusing on ourselves so that we can learn how to be better at focusing on others when we’re ready. Biblically, the entire problem here is that God was already busy using the struggles and the pain you ran from to accomplish what you think you’re now going to go do on your own. It will not work and I’m sorry if that sounds harsh.
The question is, where will the path will lead, and I’m afraid that’s the problem with this voyage of self discovery—you might not like what you find. It is absolutely no coincidence that the people I know who are focused on finding themselves are also constantly haunted by their insecurities. They are literally making up things they think are wrong with them. You can complement them a million times with as much sincerity as you can muster and they won’t believe a word of it, but let them hear one insult and with blind faith they instantly know it must be true. Hear this please: your value was never meant to be determined through your own eyes or anyone else’s.
When I talk to some of them about this, I can tell they desperately want to believe it. In fact, they may indeed believe what I’m saying, but they don’t believe it’s a truth meant for them personally. That particular scenario frustrates me to such a point that I find myself ready to beg and plead. This is about to sound harsh, but we have to come to an understanding that feeling a consistent lingering pity for ourselves when something bad happens has every potential of turning into a selfish habitual behavior. Make no mistake, feeling sorry for yourself is nothing more than pride’s ugly cousin, and they’re both distractions sent from hell.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you cannot be proud of your own humility, but we try all the time. We’ll reach a point of feeling so sorry for ourselves that we don’t care if others see it, so we put it all out there, but instead of humbly giving glory to God, we did it with a pride stirring in our hearts saying, “look at what I made it through and look at how humble I am now.” I’m laughing now because it’s so absurd, and yet surely I’m not the only one who’s done it. C.S. Lewis once killed fake humility with one statement,
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
I feel like I’m being mean, like I’m telling you not to care about yourself, but that’s not the case at all. I’m standing on the other side of this decision with my hand out, trying to tell you how amazing it is over here. Don’t worry about “finding yourself”, worry about finding yourself waking up in Heaven one day. But in the meantime, there’s nothing biblical about focusing on ourselves at any stage of our lives here on earth. The call to serve others throughout scripture paints quite the opposite picture. Perhaps that makes it sound like a commanded duty, and that makes you want to avoid it like the plague, but consider the chance that you don’t understand the satisfaction God can provide if you haven’t experienced this yet. Seriously, don’t do it just because you hope it helps punch your ticket to Heaven. Do it because you believe you can take God at His word, and He will transform your heart with new desires while then providing every opportunity needed to satisfy them. This truth is meant for you. Yes, you! It’s the life we were designed to live; the one sin’s curse fights directly in opposition of.
Whether you know it or not, you are already surrounded with the opportunities. Find them and have the courage to take them, and I guarantee you’ll ask Him for more. If you’ve put up walls around your heart to avoid pain, you’ll wind up doing more damage to yourself than whoever hurt you to inspire it in the first place. Yeah, this will all hurt at times, but when you’re doing it because you’re following God, you just look over at Him when things go wrong and instantly know that they will be ok. In fact, not only will they be ok, but you can even embrace the setbacks knowing that they are worth it and have purpose in helping guide the path.
Yes, this decision will personally cost you something, and whatever that something is will become obviously worthless compared to the priceless blessings He will provide through the people you are pouring yourself out for. It won’t be long before you don’t care if it costs you everything, and on that note, I’ll give Him the last word,
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”