When I was 18, there were three things I wanted to do with my life: to be a husband, to be a father, and to be a youth pastor. Everything I did was focused on achieving these dreams. If a relationship or an activity didn’t increase the chances of me getting there, it wouldn’t be a part of my life much longer.
I gave up playing football, dropped out of university and didn’t return phone calls and emails from my friends.
But by the time I was 23, I had accomplished all of my goals. Here I was, married for just over a year, with a one-month-old son. My church had just appointed me as the part-time youth leader. It seemed like overnight I had gone from the immaturity and insecurities of being a teenager to having all the responsibilities of a grown adult.
I had bills to pay, a wife to nurture, diapers to change, a full-time job to keep, and youth to teach and encourage. My so-called dreams became reality; but the reality was I didn’t find the bliss I thought would come with my accomplishments. Not to mention I faced the immense challenge of feeding myself spiritually to keep my life together.
During that time I watched guys my age enjoy university life, their single status, and everything else that comes with being a 20-something. I resented anyone my age who couldn’t sympathize with my position. But why would they? I had what I thought I wanted, and still felt like something was missing.
For the next four years, life went on the same, with the addition of another kid. It wasn’t until the unfortunate death of my father-in-law, who was also my pastor at the time, when life suddenly stopped. For the first time since being married, my wife and I took inventory of our lives.
Yes, we loved youth ministry. Yes, we loved being parents. But at the cost of arriving at my dreams too soon, we missed out on a major portion of our young adult lives; because of this, we weren’t enjoying everyday life. We had jumped too soon into life without considering the repercussions of the commitments we had signed up for.
We were burnt out.
We made the tough decision to step down from ministry until further notice. Until we actually had the opportunity to discover ourselves, and find out who we were exactly. My wife took a four-week trip to the other side of the world to visit family, and I had time alone to contemplate a few things. We realized through the time of transition that life had passed us by while we were so focused on things we wanted to accomplish.
Do we regret getting married so young? Having kids at the ripe age of 25? Being involved in youth ministry while just figuring out who we were as young adults? Actually, none of the above. Our only real regret was not taking time to enjoy the journey. Taking time to appreciate the good and difficult times God takes us through everyday.
So now with three kids and one more on the way, we feel as young as ever, as we’re continually walking out His plan for us. But now we’re not in any hurry to get there.
Photo by Cam Evans (Flickr CC)