Feigning AdulthoodEssays, Featured — By Jarod Grice on October 30, 2012 at 4:00 am
If every mildly active, post-graduate twenty-something that cares about whether or not they spend the next 5 years of their life groveling for cash and couch surfing were honest, they would agree it requires discipline of some sort to keep from being sucked into a vortex of self-loathing. What I find curious, however, are people’s unsuccessful attempts at incorporating discipline into everyday life. Most of the time the realization that you need to grow up starts with having a beer with some married friend who pretends to have life figured out and ends with discovering that you’re actually in deeper than you thought. So, feeling in-over-your-head, you make an unrealistic to-do list, do pretty well for a week, and then mess up.
Upon missing the exhausting set of goals that you’ve created for yourself (including but not limited to: 1. Reading several books, 2. Writing every day, 3. Building something impressive, 4. Having the body of a Greek Olympian, and 5. Finding a job that makes more than $1,500 a month), the accessibility of the beggar’s paradise doesn’t seem so bleak after all. This was literally my experience when I started pretending to be an adult after the summer, and it didn’t work very well. Maybe I didn’t try hard enough. Maybe I tried too hard. Maybe I’m not cut out for this discipline game. I’m convinced, though, that a lot of young guys and gals working their asses off trying to squeeze into the cutout of adulthood are failing for a deeper reason. I’m convinced that the “American Dream” is often unattainable and more markedly separated from joy than we think. I’m convinced that lots of “adults” are just really good actors versed in the art of feigning post-adolescence. Perhaps I’m just saying this because I’m a child.
This summer I had the opportunity to take a break from a schedule—at least a schedule I felt unable to enjoy. Being in Seattle, away from the mundane day-to-day, away from the job I was growing weary of, and away from the 8:00 a.m. classes I could not care less about, was pleasant. I was still required to be places, wake up at certain times, and complete specific assignments, but I didn’t mind doing it because it was something different, something interesting, something new. However, at a certain point I got sick of doing that routine. Ironically, I found myself homesick for my prior routine. I found myself lacking contentment in the midst of what initially seemed to be the best thing that had happened to me since beginning college. Aware of my lack of bliss, I began wondering how in the world people kept the same routine, regardless of location or geographical circumstance, for years and still had joy.
Galations 5:22-23 — “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Patience and self-control were among the many that had dried up in my life as I thought about my frustrations with lacking discipline. Scripture teaches that an evidence of the Holy Spirit living inside a person is the fruit of self-control. Self-control doesn’t just mean not yelling at people when they cut you off on the highway. It means being capable of repeating a routine more than twice for the sake of spiritual and actual maturity. But it’s not just waking up early, going to a dead-end job, and investing in ritualistic activity. Discipline is more than mere repetition, it’s more than conforming to the portrait of the American adult, and it’s a whole lot more than giving lip-service to the attractive parts of a regimented lifestyle.
Fruit produced by the hands of people seeking security and comfort from discipline will inevitably wither and dry. What people desire in their routine is novelty, vibrancy, and life. These things are far removed from the kingdoms of sand we build by our elevated commitment to perceived productivity and repetitive routines. However, the reality is that novelty, vibrancy, and life don’t fall from the sky—they grow out of discipline. Fruit doesn’t grow unless it’s watered, sometimes repetitively, on a certain time schedule, and with commitment to what often seems to be monotony.
What’s the solution to lack of discipline? How do we marry the truth that the Spirit breeds self-control to the reality that we feel completely incapable of mustering up any amount of commitment to a routine? What’s the purpose of dragging our feet through pointless activity day after day? Why doesn’t the process of productivity feel pleasant? What I’ve discovered is that the answer is, in fact, not found in sheer commitment, capability, and mind-numbing activity. Discipline is not a reward or a tag given to the people who wake up before 5:00 a.m. every day. It’s not found in a to-do list or a boring career. It’s found in the source of comfort, production, life, vibrancy, novelty, purpose, and truth. If our hope is in our discipline, we need a new hope. We need hope in something more than a routine, a system, a practice, or a career. We need the hope that’s found in Jesus as the very source of life we are seeking. Otherwise, we’re going to wake up with empty pockets on a friend’s couch asking what happened to our lives. Worse yet, we’ll wake up with a beautiful spouse, successful career, big house, and elaborate to-do list asking the same question.