The Secret Handshake of Adulthood
What I remember as the major overarching thing about being 14 was the awkwardness. Being at that stage of in-between child and in-between adult, not knowing so much if I really liked this strange, confusing, fence-sitting part of my life at all.
I had a hard time, as I think most of us did in middle school, in those sort of waiting to grow-up moments but also wishing you could be cooed back to sleep by your mom. And I don't know about you, but I felt that stage of my life lasted just about forever, and a little into my adult life as well.
Who am I kidding? Just last week I felt that way still; that not knowing enough about the right things to be considered an adult, like still fighting with fitted sheet to somehow fold it and trying to remember which fork is the correct one to use for the salad course.
But at my age now, while I don't feel any more adult than I did at 14 (beyond a few select adult choices like being a wife and mother and having a career) the truth of the matter is that these things, along with having an intelligent conversation about refinancing a house, are things I am just not that gifted at, and that's okay, as I know have enough wisdom to understand this about myself.
At 14, and even now, that's what I remember and struggle with — this feeling of wondering when am I going to grow up? (As if there is some magic moment that you know.) When am I going to know what to do? Have faith like those church people murmuring with deep knowing amens during sermons?
And we all do this a little I think, but at 14 I was still awaiting to be handed the keys to adulthood, but I still couldn't figure out when that was going to happen. From my careful observations, I was convinced that when they handed you that confirmation Bible, they slipped in a small booklet under that Bible, a sort of secret handshake exchange of adulthood that told you all the things you needed to know about faith and life.
Sadly, I didn't find any handbook in my Bible, and so I had to figure out how to at least pretend to be holy and smart, which mostly included figuring it out along the way. For me it meant trying not to offend the preacher's wife when I played the Joan Osbourne song "One of Us" during Sunday School the day I was assigned to lead the devotional.
Yep. In those moments, I would have wished to prevent my faith journey altogether and perhaps have the earth swallow me whole. But what I've since learned is that faith is a tenacious journey built through just slogging through, mistakes, missteps, challenges and all. And that is what makes it uniquely yours.
Not much has changed about my faith journey since 14. I still have days and moments where I wonder if I'm making any progress along the way at all, seeing as I am still prone to humanness and reading celebrity gossip during my down moments. At other times I wonder if I'm asking the right questions while reassuring my 14-year-old self to just keep asking questions. And of course I still have days where I feel caught – caught between this sort of pretending to be an adult that I'm just waiting for someone to catch wind of.
In short, I still have insecurities.
In short, I am still uncomfortable.
In short, I am still learning.
And to me this is the biggest lesson I would offer my 14-year-old self. That while much changes, much doesn't.
Everyone to some degree feels like a fraud in their own life and a little uncomfortable about this whole grown-up business.
The other thing I would tell myself is that what buoys you and anchors you is your faith.
While it's so not cool to be faithful, a girl of character or worth, a girl that loves Jesus, just preserve and carry on. I would tell myself this with the understanding that I know the end of the story. I know it works out in the end, but not without a lot of dirt and mess and mire and chaos and invisible scares and scrapes collected along the way, the price of living life as a human.
That the rose of faith (which is really a true joy) comes honestly but not without a great deal of mud or darkness, and you will see your fair share of dirt along the way, some days more than you think you can take.
Other days, you'll feel wholly covered up in it. But I would tell my 14-year-old self to keep walking through the dirt. Just remember that the most beautiful roses come from the most pungent dirt. Try to remind yourself constantly of that little tidbit when life gets particularly messy and smelly.
At 14 I thought I would have it figured out at the age I currently am. And at this age, I laugh at the notion because truly, I don't have it figured out and I'm not sure I ever will.
To me, my faith journey is more about getting really comfortable with being uncomfortable than I would have ever guessed. And the thing about it is — you can sound like such a downer until you realize that the more you don't know is only the beginning of faith opening up.
And what I've learned is, the more I seek answers and trying to figure out faith — the more questions arise. And the more questions arise, the more I am called back to the Bible and to Jesus. Maybe seeking answers and faith all these years has lead me to the deeper part of my faith — the part where in seeking the answers, I seek Jesus, and realize that has been the answer all along.