Identity, it's a funny thing to figure out these days. When we were kids we were so clear about what we'd be when we grew up; I went to career day in first grade as a ninja. I was going to be a ninja, it worked out so well in my mind, it worked out well for the kids in the movies, there was nothing standing in my way. OK, so maybe I was a little weird, but I had gracious and supportive parents who knew that it would pass and they let me go to school that way.
Now that we're all grown up, for the most part, it becomes a little more difficult. We start thinking about things like houses, marriages, mortgages, college debts and insurance; as incredible as it sounds being a ninja does not offer security in these things (I know I was shocked to discover it as well).
In the last year I've had strong urges to drop everything and focus on becoming: a monk, a college professor, homeless (which I did for a time), a novelist and a goat herder. At some point identity becomes less what we do and more who we are in association with what we do.
However, as young adults we are an unsettled people; even those of us who are married and have a house and children struggle to find identity outside of those things. We are told that our identity should be founded on Christ, but sometimes the people who tell us that are not any more Christ-like than anyone else in the culture. We are told that we are created for a purpose but the question remains in the back of our minds "how will the world be any better because I'm here?"
I don't have any answers and I'm struggling with the same questions as you. We've all heard sermons about "Pay it Forward" that movie where the little boy does good things and has the recipients of the good deeds pass the idea on. The world doesn't work like that though. For some reason somebody along always the line drops the ball, but if they didn't the world would be a much better place. We also know about the civil rights movement where an entire generation stood up and stuck it to the man for the sake of justice for an oppressed people. Even with that amazing victory we still can't walk out our doors and look at the world without seeing racism. It can become overwhelmingly depressing. It also means that we still have a battle to fight.
We live in a world of people who beat their prophets and killed their messiah. It is not a holy place. We live in a world that was created good. It is a holy place. We, as individuals, are betrayers and witnesses both in tension in our same being. We are a species that over the course of our evolution has fallen and risen so many times that it would be easier to count the stars. We carry these failures and victories in our own bodies. We are also the species in which God became incarnate for the sake of sanctifying the whole world.
We may not be able to do anything to change the world as individuals but I do know that we can try. As a generation we literally have the power to transform or destroy the world, we cannot do either alone. So I'm asking, no begging you, me, us, we to answer the call of the spirit, the same call we hear beyond the music as we fall asleep and beyond the sound of traffic when we wake, the call that unsettles us, to work and work together. We have a calling as a generation, a people, a tribe to this world for the sake of Christ, to purify and make it better. If we stand together as the Church, yes the same church that has betrayed and wounded us, the same church that has started wars, and still the same church that works to fight disease, hunger and slavery, then we can truly begin to make a difference in this terrible and beautiful world. Perhaps this calling is our generational identity, maybe through its light and strength, darkness and fragility, we can begin to work out our own individual identities.
See more devotions from Luke and our other Young Adult writers, or find our how you can become a writer yourself at our By Young Adults for Young Adults devotion page.