My generation was mislead as children, adolescents, and college students.
Not intentionally, mind you. Most everyone who raised us and taught us growing up intended well. They wanted to do everything they could to ensure our success. They tried to make it easier and easier to think creatively and to discover our own vocations, callings, and purposes in life. They tried to protect us from various problems. While it is embedded in the passing of the torch that one generation wants the next generation to be better and more successful than they were, to have a better live, it was my generation of Millennials who were the first to experiencing the widespread streamlining of our education and upbringing, trying to make a future available for everyone.
The vision that my generation had was one where we would take our place in the world to shape the world as we finally grew up, as we finally reached the place where our education had prepared us with the skills and know-how to make the world a better place. The future was bright and we simply had to reach for it.
But, then it all came shattering down. For some of us, we experienced the some of the hard realities of life that our upbringing did not prepare us for: the world was not malleable to our dreams and visions, but there were many forces resisting our dreams. We discovered that the nice, glossy sheen of the future that had been presented to us was more like a high-budget, blockbuster theatrical production. With all the hopes and dreams being given to us, we began to inhabit an imaginary world that looked similar to the real world, but masked a dark truth from us:
The world does not want to be healed. The world does not want to change for the better. The world does not want to bring about life. The world remains in inertia, with forces arrayed against changing it. These forces are not nefarious, evil forces lurking around the corner, trying to pull people’s strings. These forces are people’s own needs, desires, pains, struggles, and sins. These forces are people who are attached to some parts of the way things are, even as they want to change other parts of the way things are. Everyone wants change, but not everyone wants the same change, and so we see our dreams resisted by other people’s dreams. Our hopes being attacked by other people’s hopes.
Here is the truth that was veiled: people are people. They have always been so, they continue to be so, and they will always be so into the future. People are people in all their goodness, badness, beauty, and ugliness. The thing is we can never come to a satisfactory enough agreement on what is good, bad, beautiful, and ugly with everyone, or even most everyone. The end result is that our dreams are resisted by others.
This leads us to another truth that was veiled from us: my power is not sufficient to change the world to fit to our dreams. Even the most influential people in the world receive resistance to their plans. There is not a person on the planet earth who has the power to change the world for the better. This remains true when we change from the singular to the plural: our power is not sufficient to change the world to fit to our dreams. No matter how many people we can gather together in agreement and unison, there will always be those who stand against us. In fact, the more support we gather, the more they are galvanized to gain support for their side.
So, we are tempted with two options: upon the discovery that this cruel, yet beautiful world was veiled to so many of us when we were younger, we were tempted to either keep pushing further to accomplish our dreams, leading to further resistance from those who opposed us, or to live in despair and accept that the optimism planted in our dreams, hopes, and visions are relics of our childhood, adolescence, and college years that are simply a nostalgic, bygone word of days long past that are never coming back.
Now, those of us who have tasted much of the pain, the cruelty, the mourning, the grief, and the loss in our early years had something locked within us that made us never really buy in and to see something of a mirage, even if we couldn’t really fully express it at the time. We wanted to buy into it; we wanted to dream with others; we even tried it. We even bought into it some.
But as more responsibility was laid upon us, as we were seen no longer as passive receptacles of knowledge brimming with potential that should be watched over, but became now expected to be active participants in the world around us, the gloves came off. We were protected, but no longer. The promises that we had heard were not honored, but they were forgotten as promises that were never made by the people who were expected to honor them. In fact, many of those making the promises were not the ones expected to honor the promises, but they passed it off onto others. Then, others made hopeful promises because the world around them had taught them this was the right thing to say, only to be unwilling to honor the words they had said.
As the sudden realization of this world began to hit us, often times traumatically, some of us saw the truth. What seemed to be a world where our hope and dreams would thrive was actually only part of the world, partitioned off by a veil that had been casting a shadow where the light of those hopes did not and could not penetrate. The world was harder, more difficult, more in darkness than we had been taught. We had been living in a Disneyland.
We had never really been taught how to fight through difficulty, to struggle with the darkness of life. When we encountered it, we thought that good would just win by having an incredibly feat of human strength and capacity, just like many of the superhero comics and movies had seduced us into imagining. My generation as a whole never had to face the long, tedious task of struggling with the darkness. We never realized the persistent conflict that we might have with others. Once the constructed facade of our power and our capacity to meet the challenge was broken, we were left to fear or to continue to delude ourselves about what we can do.
However, there is another option: redemption.
Redemption isn’t just making things better. Redemption isn’t solving a few problems and saying we have accomplished our world. And there is no Amazon Prime for delivering redemption. Redemption is slow and hard.
Redemption is more like a farmer who plants seeds and waters them, waiting for them to grow, constantly caring and watching for them until the fruits are ready to harvest. The work is hard, is tedious, is constant, and there may not seem to be any noticeable change day-to-day. Many things get in the way that threatened what one has planted: floods, droughts, and infestations. And just because you had a good day one day doesn’t mean the next day will necessary get any easier. Slacking off will certainly make things harder the next day, but working hard doesn’t take away the hard work that the next day brings. Redemption is the process where an empty, unprepared land is worked, tilled, cared for, and protected for a mature harvest, but it doesn’t get easier before the harvest arrives.
Maturity, true maturity, is the resulting work on our hearts that comes as we till the land we have plowing, sowing, watering, and hoping to harvest from. It is not simply someone who has a set of know-how and skills; it is not simply someone who presents well. Maturity is becoming someone who understands what it takes to make a harvest and is willing to see it through as the intersection of hope, trials, and practice produces in us a fruit of maturity, even as we hope for a harvest elsewhere.
Mature people no longer think about changing the world, at least not directly. We want to bring a harvest that others will enjoy and celebrate, that will bring thriving and hope where people are struggling to survive in the darkness. In maturity, we may still wish to be heroes, but we seek to become heroes of the mundane. Our super powers are not the swift, ferocious, and mesmerizing power that the world lifts up, promising more than they ever really deliver, but our super powers are steadfastness, patience, faithfulness, and struggling tenacity to bring a harvest. But lest we fear those other powers, maturity can teach us how to disarm those with the power of these ferocious weapons with only the utterance of a few words so that the real, redeeming, harvesting work of love can start back.
The truth about maturity is that the more we take on, the harder things can get without letting up, but that, at the same time, the more we mature, the easier the harder things get.