The way we talk about adulthood flows directly from how we think about adulthood, and both of these matter significantly, not only for ourselves but also for the generations that are following on our heels and being raised in our homes.
If newsfeeds and funny memes are any indication of the current cultural view of “adulting” (to borrow a popular phrase), we are being poor advertisers of adulthood.
Just today, while toting my littlest fella around with me on necessary errands that keep order in our lives, food in our pantries and stability in our home, I saw these journals speaking pejoratively about adulthood and its myriad responsibilities.
Despite the fact that it was written in gold letters, the message is rusted and rotten. While it may mask itself as humor, underneath the “authenticity” lies an insidious complaint that adulthood is mere drudgery.
In Philippians, one of the rare letters in which Paul’s purpose was to praise and encourage an obedient Church rather than correct an erring Church, Paul warns against complaining.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Philippians 2:14-16.
In these verses, Paul has connected grumbling and disputing with blemishes. Yet, our culture (which seeps into the Church often imperceptibly) seems to be branding what God calls a blemish. Even though I am not gifted in the interior decor department, even I know that it would be a poor decision to decorate our homes with blemishes and eyesores. However, if we listen to the culture of complaint and get pulled into its currents and norms, we will be not only normalizing but also espousing a false view of adulthood.
I recognize that each generation swings the pendulum as far as possible from the errors of its preceding generation. As such, it should not surprise us that my generation touts authenticity as the highest good. After all, the generations before tended to smile and stuff, to present to the world a polished exterior and ignore or minimize the unsightly or uncomfortable realities of life. However, we ought to be careful, for we have so highly raised the flag of authenticity that complaining, under the guise of “keeping it real,” is being celebrated before and to our children.
As an adult, I do not want my children to be misinformed about adulthood and the necessary and right responsibilities which accompany it. It is not all sunshine and rainbows, vacations and trips to the salon. I do not want generations following us to have unrealistic expectations that adulthood is the height of all bliss and comfort; however, I fear that we are painting a bleak and unbiblical picture of adulthood for them.
Yes, there are bills to pay and mouths to feed, hours to log and carpools to drive. Yes, these can be challenging and draining at times. However, we will foster generations of Peter Pans who fear growing up if we do not invite our children into the joys and wonder of adulthood, as well as its challenges.
Lest you think I am pointing the finger out there, I want to invite you in here, into my own mistakes and home. Yesterday, I caught myself sighing loudly while on hold with the insurance company (my least favorite part of adulting includes the phone and any kind of elevator music played while on a 20-minute hold). My son was in the room and, in concern, asked what was wrong.
I caught myself about to complain, but remembered that I have a chance to teach my child the value of obedience, even in the most boring stuff. Thus, rather than say what my flesh wanted to say, I said, “It stinks to talk to insurance companies, but I am so glad that we have dental care. When I make this call, I allow us to stay with the dentist that we love and trust and not have to switch again.”
A small victory, to be sure, but a start.
I long for my children to look at all of life from a biblical worldview. I long them for them to be lights shining brightly in a dark world, as Paul longed for his Philippians friends. In order to do that, I have some work to do in my heart regarding the culture of complaining in which we live and which lives latent in all of us. I have some work to do in teasing out the wonder and beauty that is often buried under the bed of chores and musts and oughts of adulthood in my own life.