I was under the impression that adulting would resemble a Muji store. I thought things would come in neat little labeled packages, tied up with twine. I expected a certain level of orderliness.
Yet, at 24, my life is anything but orderly. Rather than receiving life in neat and tidy packages, I find myself stumbling, tripping, and crawling over a seemingly endless terrain of barnacles and rugged edges.
Serving as a P2C-Students Intern at UBC over the past 2 years has taught me how to thrive in life’s lack of orderliness. Whatever I do after my internship, I want to hold on to three takeaways that have helped me persevere through seasons of chaos in adulting. These takeaways do not suddenly give order to uncertain and difficult seasons, but they give order to the way I respond to them.
As an intern, I get to disciple students, which often looks like reading the Bible together and tackling big life questions.
Once when a student asked me a particularly deep question, I panicked and mashed together “spiritual” words to deliver an “answer.” The end result: I provided more confusion than clarity. All for the sake of looking smart, wise, and good at what I do.
Whether in leadership at P2C or elsewhere, it is tempting to assume that people expect you to have all the answers.
I used to think, “As a P2C-S staff, I must possess every answer to every question about faith in Jesus.” While my brain was aware of the untruth in this statement, my heart clung closely to this line of thinking, and it came out in my attitudes and actions.
There are days where I still struggle with not knowing.
When you admit “I don’t know,” you uphold honesty in a relationship. This honesty mitigates the stumbling blocks of made-up answers. It reflects the reality that leaders are humans too, just like the people they serve. It is more in line with the fact that our faith journeys are not always clear cut, linear, black and white. They’re not orderly.
Instead, the journey of faith involves circles and u-turns toward greater knowledge and love of Jesus. Among the barnacles, he is the anchor that grounds the questions.
So as you continue your adulting journey, get comfortable saying “I don’t know.” And then go find some answers alongside others.
Not knowing can be hard: Walking through my “dark night of the soul”
Within the first month of in-person ministry, I got tonsillitis twice. I completely overworked myself. My to-do list involved planning Bible studies, coordinating workshops, designing graphics, packing equipment, and contacting a long list of new students, among other things. My body screamed for rest.
In between nursing my fever and stomaching acrid Chinese medicine, I was convicted of a deep pride that lay beneath the way I was operating. On the outside, it looked like I was admirably giving my 110%. But what truly lay beneath my veneer of “hard work” was a need for control.
I trusted myself more than I trusted God.
Hard work is not bad, but my so-called “hard work” was rooted in both pride and a fundamental misunderstanding of God’s character. I was ignoring the fact that God had never intended for me to serve university students alone. He put me in a team for a reason.
It wasn’t until some student leaders and my fellow P2C-S staff offered to help that I realized the beauty of serving in a community. But I had to first accept their help. And that meant accepting that I am not self-sufficient.
Accepting assistance gives other people the opportunity to step up.
All the things I have ever learned how to do involved someone else giving me a chance to try, to fail, and to learn from my mistakes. As P2C-S staff, I am often that someone for a student, coaching them to step up and learn. It’s not orderly, but it does allow new leaders to rise up. And who knows in what amazing ways God will use them!
Wherever you are adulting, I encourage you to give people a chance to step up and walk with you. Even if you think you could get the job done better than them.
Learning to work with others is important: Give me a group project!
Near the end of my first year of interning, I was considering whether to continue in my role for a second year (which, since you’re reading this, I did).
Also trying to make decisions? Determine God’s call with this guide to emotion-free decision-making.
As an intern, I have the privilege of learning from other staff and missionaries. So, I decided to interview staff members who had been in ministry longer than I. One particular interview stood out to me.
I was expressing to this staff member how I wished God would give me more clarity in life. I wish he would set me on a path, and voila—that would be my calling and I could just stay on it forever ’til Kingdom come.
“You remember the Lord’s prayer, that part about asking God for our daily bread?,” she asked. “It’s daily bread, which means we approach him each day, asking for just enough for the day. We get one portion of bread each day—a slice. God does not give us our whole life’s loaf in one go.”
I tend to wish for greater orderliness, so that I can predict what tomorrow holds. Then I could make grand plans. But then I would also be even more tempted to try to do life without God.
So God gives just enough bread for me to live this day, to be faithful with today.
From this conversation, I have learned great joy and contentment in looking at what God has called me to be faithful with today.
Faithfulness in sharing the gospel.
Faithfulness in scrubbing the toilet.
Faithfulness in checking up on the students I disciple.
Faithfulness in recognizing time is not a possession, but a gift from God.
So I ask myself each morning before I start ministry work:
- What has the Lord put on my plate for today?
- What is the next right step?
- How can I be faithful in acknowledging him in all my ways?
More questions to consider: Can I be confident in knowing God’s will?
The Muji store no longer epitomizes my understanding of what adulting should look like. That boat sailed long ago. The store’s orderliness still appeals to me, but for a different reason.
Order still matters. And where we look for ultimate order in our lives matters too. For me, I look to Jesus. Through his death and resurrection, he is making order out of everything. He is undoing the chaos of the world to bring true and lasting orderliness.
Knowing this gospel truth, and reminding myself of it daily, enables me to brave the storms of adulting. In and out of my internship, I want to persevere with joy and thanksgiving.
Even when things are not orderly.