Adulting: A made-up verb now largely and legitimately adopted into the millennial vernacular.
Meaning: “to adult.” As in: “I just signed a lease, bought a mattress, and paid off my credit card. Adulting is so hard.”
It’s something I know all too well.
I am nineteen and in the process of navigating the complex, disorienting, and fun transition to adulthood. Crossing from kid to adult is sort of like entering a foreign country you’ve heard much about but never visited. You’ve observed how the citizens act, work, dress, talk, and live — but only from afar. Actually entering the country is a whole new world. It can even be a shock.
All of a sudden, we’re getting jobs. We’re moving away from home. We’re making new friends. We’re entering romantic relationships. We’re paying bills. We’re becoming independent.
As I walk through this unique season, five truths are sustaining me.
1. Humility is the way to greatness.
Adulthood, more than any other time in my life, is teaching me how little I know and how much I have to learn. It is attacking all notions of entitlement and ease and, sometimes roughly and sometimes gently, showing me that weakness is the road to greatness.
The apostle Paul said, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). But I have a problem with that: I don’t want to be weak. More importantly, I don’t want others to think I’m weak. I want them to perceive me as powerful. What my young, sinful heart wants is pride. But becoming an adult is teaching me that I need humility — what C.J. Mahaney calls “the pathway to true greatness.”
2. Self-control is indispensable.
As a young person, I am especially passionate and ambitious. This is a gift from God, a tool I can use to build the kingdom and serve others. It’s also something I can mishandle and manipulate to bring destruction instead of growth. It can lead me outside boundaries and down danger-fraught paths. I can lose control — and that is a serious mark of immaturity.
God knows this. He invented biology and wired my brain. That doesn’t give me an excuse; it gives me extra caution. Throughout Scripture there are consistent calls to young people to pursue self-control — in sex, in food, in alcohol, in feelings, in family relationships, in friendships (2 Timothy 2:22; Titus 2:3–6). Mature adults know that self-control is the cornerstone of success. We are called to be sober-minded soldiers for the glory of God, and that demands putting away childish things and stepping up to self-control.
3. It’s okay to not have everything figured out.
When I was eight, I thought that becoming an adult meant all the pieces of my life would magically slide together. I would quickly land my dream job, dream husband, and dream house. I would have a twenty-year plan and a rock-solid retirement fund. I would know each step, and life would flawlessly follow that.
Imagine my eighteen-year-old surprise to discover this was not the case! I did not — and do not — have everything figured out. The future is more like a blank canvas than a color-coded spreadsheet. And that’s okay, because it’s teaching me trust. God is both tirelessly sovereign and unwaveringly loving. He knows my future, and he holds it in his hands. He does not ask that I have everything figured out. He simply asks that I surrender my desires and dreams to him and follow his guidance. That’s what adults who love Jesus do.
4. We need the discipline of failure.
I first heard this phrase — “the discipline of failure” — in a recent sermon from the book of Exodus. My pastor (who’s also my dad) was preaching about the life of Moses, a story woven with dramatic failures. In his message, he quoted S. Lewis Johnson, who profoundly said, “One of the ways in which God disciplines us is through the discipline of failure.” My dad added, “Sometimes God wants us to fail.”
As much as this surprises our sensibilities, failure is a way God teaches, tests, and strengthens us. In fact, God has lessons for us we can only learn through failure.
But I don’t like to fail. Actually, I hate it. I hate it because of my pride. I want people to see me as the model Successful Person — the girl who never messes up. But the intractable truth is that failure makes me better — a better Christian, a better woman, a better daughter, a better adult. It forces me to confront my shortcomings, confess my mistakes, and learn the right way forward.
5. We need “real” adults.
Technically, I am an adult. My government (Canada) says I am. The children from my church say I am. But I do not feel like one. And that’s why I need older adults (a.k.a. “real” adults) to continue to teach me, mentor me, support me, train me, and protect me. I need wise elders to help me navigate the transition to adulthood. Ironically, it’s the process of becoming independent that has made me realize how much I need to be dependent on others.
Specifically, I need two kinds of adults: I need my parents, and I need the older adults in my church. Sadly, those are often the two sources of wisdom that young adults are quickest to cut off. Our parents and our churches are authorities, and this is the age when we want to liberate ourselves from all authority. But if I’m going to pursue maturity and godly adulthood, I need older mentors to guide me and keep me accountable. That’s why Paul calls for the older women and men of the church to teach and guard the younger ones (Titus 2:1–6). Young adults need older adults.
When Adults Remain Children
As I become an adult, these are the truths I cling to and the virtues I strive for. Yet as I leave my childhood behind me, I’m reminded that I will forever be a child of God. Becoming a biological adult will never change that spiritual identity. God is my heavenly Father, and that means I have the responsibilities of a child. I am called to obey. I am called to submit. And I am called to trust that my Father is acting for my good.
As I become an adult, I am comforted by the fact that I am never alone. I have a heavenly Father who will constantly teach me, love me, protect me, and provide for me. And no matter how old I get, that will never, ever change.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now” (1 John 3:1–2).