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The Key to a Purposeful Life
Image: Michael Mullan
The Key to a Purposeful Life

On a recent Sunday night, I sat on the floor at church, with my 3-year-old climbing in and out of my lap. As an introduction to a teaching series on fear, we had broken into small groups to answer the question: "What things are people your age most afraid of?"

I spoke of the maternal fears I share with all my 30-something mom friends: injury, illness, death, sadness for our children. The response of the other two group members surprised me, if only for their candor. Both 20-somethings in full-time Christian ministry, they were afraid of "getting it wrong" in the next decade—of wasting the years, making wrong decisions, and having to backpedal and start over. One guy put it this way: "I don't want to set myself up for a midlife crisis, where I say, 'What have I done with my life so far?'"

It is a fear I know well, having spent my 20s feeling much the same way. The plethora of choices—vocational, relational, and geographical—and the silence of my culture about its expectations often left me feeling paralyzed. In the words of songwriter David Wilcox, "I was dead with deciding—afraid to choose. I was mourning the loss of the choices I'd lose." Several publications at the time, including a book entitled Quarterlife Crisis, made it clear that I was not alone.

On the other side of that decade, I find myself among a crowd with a different fear—or perhaps the same fear with a different face. That same Sunday night, another friend, in his late 30s, talked about the frightening realization that all his hopes and goals for life would not be met. This particular friend has 2-year-old twins, one of whom has serious medical problems; his sweet ...

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The Key to a Purposeful Life
hide thisNovember November

In the Magazine

November 2012

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