On Mentors, Identity, and Turning 30

Tomorrow, I turn 30.

As an introvert (ISFJ, for those that care about such distinctions), it is only fitting that I spend at least a few minutes reflecting on the last decade of life that was my twenties.

Ten years ago, I leapt from my teenage years with excitement and uncertainty. I was thankful to say “goodbye” to those awkward middle school and high school moments but had no idea what direction my life was headed. At the time, I had just wrapped up my sophomore year of undergrad at Campbell University. I had declared my major (Religion and Philosophy) the previous fall and had spent the year digging into the depths of my religious beliefs and understandings.

That year, I found myself looking at scripture in new ways, learning that I was a part of a faith tradition that had a rich-albeit tumultuous- history, and had begun the long journey of asking the tough questions that would form my understanding of who I was and how God fit into that identity.

In the years that followed, I would find myself building on these things as I was given room to engage my faith and call, while having the support of my professors and Campus Minister. It would be these individuals that would teach me to lead, show me what it meant to be a follower of Christ in a world that needs him, and who would guide me as I discerned the life-changing decisions I would make during those identity formative years.

Without the guidance of these mentors, I would not have approached the big moments of my twenties the same. Things like marriage, adoption, vocational transitions, Divinity school locations, and ministry ordination, were all made possible because of the guiding mentorship of those critical people in my life.

I cannot help but wonder, as I leave this decade of life behind, what my journey would have been like without these influences. Where would I be in my family life, vocational placement, or spiritual formation? These hypotheticals, due to the presence of those who I’ll never be able to thank enough, I’ll never have to answer.

As I look back and see what this last decade has meant for my own development, I realize the critical role mentors play in the lives of those in their twenties. I realize that no matter where they are on their journey, twenty-somethings need us.

They need the spiritual, and practical, advice and nurturing of those who’ve already journeyed the path they’re on. They need to hear that messing up is not just ok, it’s inevitable. They need to know that not having it all figured out by 25, 38 or 55, is normal. They need to be able to struggle in, question and mold their identity knowing that they do not journey alone because we are with them every step of the way.

Whether you’re leaving your twenties behind, or can barely remember them, know that you are valuable to those who are in the midst of them. Know that your presence, investment, and influence will be more important than most of the fleeting things they may focus on. Most importantly, never give up on us (I can say “us” for a few more hours) because without you, we may never truly find who we’re called to be.

_________

In an effort at brevity, and so as to not miss anyone:

If you’re someone who has journeyed with me over these past ten years, know that you are appreciated. If not for professors, ministers, supervisors, colleagues, and friends, I can honestly say that I would not be the man, spouse, father, minister, or faith follower that I am today. 

I enter my 30’s better prepared, and with a more fulfilled life, because you have been in it. 

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

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