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My Quarter-Life Crisis

I think I’m having a Quarter-life Crisis. I didn’t mean to have a Quarter-life Crisis. It was not on the Michelle’s Life Plan plot graph. In fact, in my defense I feel like it was almost an afterthought – like hey, I should probably quit my job because of these very legitimate circumstances, but wait – I’m 25. Oh crap.

Why am I doing this?
Who am I?
What do I do with my life?
How do I get another job?
What kind of job do I want?

And so began my Quarter-life Crisis.

Ok, so it hasn’t been quite like that, but laugh as you may, at times I feel like it’s an actual thing, these Quarter-life Crises. I was recently hanging out with my twenty-something friends at a cook out, and that’s everyone’s story right now, or so it seems. He’s quitting his job, and she’s thinking about it too. That guy’s been looking for a job for five months, and that girl feels trapped in her current job. And not a single person is quite sure what they’re doing, or if they’re even doing it right.

And honestly, I’ve been a little frustrated with God because like I said, I wasn’t planning on being here. It wasn’t like I was scheming in my room with my Erin Condren Planner to quit my job the moment I turned 25. I liked my job and I was planning to stay there. But suddenly the Lord said – “Quit your job. You’re going to have a Quarter-life Crisis with me.” Ok, maybe He didn’t say that last part, but He did say quit your job, and so I did. But He didn’t give me step 2 or open a magic door with a sign saying ‘Go This Way.’ Like Abram from the land of Ur, I left what I knew without a map or a plan. The first step was kind of exciting, like going on a fun, new adventure. However, every step after that has been filled with a generous concoction of faith and fear.

Being in a Quarter-life Crisis is hard. I’ll apply for a job and then question – what happens if I don’t get this job? What if I get it and suddenly decide I want to do something else or what if I don’t get any jobs in the realm of what I want to do? What happens then? And what if what I’ve been doing for the past several years was a waste? It’s this constant pendulum between anxiety about right now and anxiety about twenty years from now. Anxiety. That’s all my Quarter-life Crisis has truly been. Anxiety and a philosophical sobering to the inconsistencies of life and the disillusioning of control.

Everything seems out of control. Turkey, France, Syria, Iraq, even America. Politics and race, shootings and riots, protests and coups. And then there’s me trying to grapple with the lack of control I have over my own tiny life. It’s anxiety producing, to realize that things can turn out badly. We all assent without question that empires fall and plans fail, but you never expect it to be yours. And then suddenly you wake up and the one thing you are clinging to is ablaze and crashing to the ground and there’s not a single water bucket in sight – that’s a crisis. Uncontrolled and Uncontrollable.

Jesus, too, has a knack for creating crises. There was a time in His ministry when He healed this guy who hadn’t walked in thirty-eight years (which seems legit) BUT He chose to do it on the Sabbath. He sent the man on his way, carrying his mat with him – which was breaking the Jewish law that you can’t work on the Sabbath. The Pharisees couldn’t stand Him. They literally decided to kill Him because He was deconstructing their law and using His healing powers to get others to break it too. He was undoing the very thing they thought He should be upholding. And I love the way He responds when they accuse Him of breaking this law:

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”  ~ John 5:39-40 (emphasis mine)

It’s like Jesus walked up into a dark room and said,

“Dude. Stop trying to look inside the flashlight and turn it on. It’s meant to be used to find something besides itself. You’ve completely missed the point of a flashlight.”

And that’s what we do. Pharisees, samaritans, invalids, prostitutes, and prodigal sons. That’s what I’ve done. I’ve taken my job, my desires, decisions, passions, and plans and searched them as if they can bring me this life that I’m looking for, but no matter how long I search, there’s nothing but a couple of AA batteries inside. And so, like Jesus did with those poor Pharisees and their law, He takes my flashlights from me and suddenly I’m having a crisis.

No! Don’t do that! I need that! What the crap are you doing?! You’ve taken my flashlight and now I have nothing! Now what am I going to do!? How am I supposed to find another flashlight in this dark room? I don’t think you understand how difficult and competitive finding flashlights are here Jesus. Every time I think I find one, someone else takes it or I don’t qualify to own it or it’s too high to reach.

And then Jesus, patient and merciful Jesus, takes my hand and lays it firmly yet lovingly in His and says to me,

‘Sweet daughter. Look at me. This flashlight, it’s not going to help you unless you turn it on and use it to find Me. I’m the one you’ve been looking for. Have you forgotten so quickly?’

He turns it on and puts it in the same hand that’s laying inside of His nail-scarred palm. And then with the a small burst of light, my weary eyes lay hold of the Light of the World. The flashlight falls to the ground, suddenly forgotten, suddenly unneeded, because my hands are clinging to something else…Someone else.

As I am writing this, I still don’t have a job. But I’m confident I’ll get one. I don’t know how or when and I still have specific desires and plans for my life. It may not be a job that I want, or honestly one that is fun or pays a lot. It may be a job that destroys my plans again. But this Quarter-life Crisis Jesus made me have has reminded me – it’s just a flashlight.

Flashlights break and they burn out. They need replacing and sometimes they get stolen. But they’re just flashlights, made to point us to the Light that abundantly gives eternal life. And knowing that, remembering the Light I know I have – it doesn’t matter what kind of flashlight I hold, or if I even have one at all. I’ll grapple around in the dark if I have to because I’ve tasted and I’ve seen that He is the one I’ve been searching for, the one I need. I was made to search this life to discover and know my Father (who made life itself), to see Him more fully, to know Him more intimately, to love Him more deeply. Whether in harvest or famine, summer or winter, it all exists to show me that God has all and is all that I will ever need. To know that in plenty is sweet, but to know that, to experience that in my neediest moments is faith-anchoring.

I will not miss this season of job hunting or wandering in dark wondering what’s next, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that God shines brightest when we are desperately needy of Him. I mean…that’s what we were made for. To need Him. And to have Him.

I want to have Him, and to have Him like this.

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