Thirties :: Demotion to Formation

I am in my early 30s, contrary to what many people guess. And the truth is that it feels like I have learned more in the last 4 years than in the preceding 30 combined...though I know it isn't true. Another reality is that I interact with, relate to and disciple a number of leaders in their 20's and 30's. Over the last few years, I have developed a suspicion that has now turned into a solidifying philosophy. Disclaimer: I think that what I share here applies most specifically to leaders, particularly those called into Christian ministry/leadership (or at least that is the crowd I am addressing here). Though the ideas may apply more broadly too. 

Here is how I think things typically go...

In our 20s...early promotion:

  • We are pretty immature on the inside but we now look mature on the outside. We are in charge of our lives fully now without the wisdom and experience to manage it very well.
  • We make many financial and relational mistakes and function out of our own strength...and we have plenty of it at this point.
  • We are energetic, optimistic and able to tackle anything. And we are all about outward results! We want to prove a lot of things to a lot of people in a short amount of time....but mainly we want to try to prove some things to ourselves in a quest to establish our identity. Little do we realize at this point, that identity is built on the inside, not from the outside. 
  • We experience what Author, Bobby Clinton calls "early promotion." We are placed into roles or positions bigger than we are and we see some results and growth. Things look good. And we think it has a LOT more to do with us than it actually does. God allows this for very specific reasons; mainly 1) to taste the destiny of our future and 2) to pass time and keep us out of too much trouble until we are ready for what God wants to do with you on the inside.
  • For most leaders, they are not self-aware enough or mature enough yet for God to put His finger on character issues and formation concerns. They would not listen or respond very well. So He waits.

Then something happens. Pain. Loss. Fall. Transition. Something. Something that gets our attention and gets us ready for the next season. We just get unsettled, unhappy, an unwilling to keep going on with the same ole thing. You are getting ready on the inside now. You are starting to see that if anything lasting is going to be built, you're going to have to slow down and look in.

In our 30s...demotion to formation:

  • We become more ready for the deep stuff. The Lord begins to put his finger on our sin issues, broken places, and heart diseases. We are ready to start facing stuff. Perhaps slow at first, but something feels different on the inside. 
  • We begin to see what we have done over the last 10 years and realize how much we knew then and how little we know now (insert sarcasm here). This also means that our attention starts to shift from everything wrong about everyone else, and onto ourselves. It's humility time. 
  • Now is the time that we start to focus more on who we are becoming on the inside and less on what we are doing on the outside.  
  • Foundations can only NOW start to be laid for the house that the Lord wants to build through the 40s and 50s and beyond.
  • It is in our 30s that we start to learn the urgency of intimacy and the requirement of dependency...usually when we start to actually realize that we cannot do it on our own anymore. Unless the Lord builds the house, those that labor, do so in vain.
  • Depending on maturity, a wise 30s leader will know that they are in a season of submission and formation and as such, it will not pass fast. They settle down, sit back, hand the reigns over to Jesus and let him drive.

In full disclosure, this has been my journey! But the crazy thing is that I have seen it be the journey of a host of other leaders and friends that I have walked with over the last several years. I know that it won't apply to everyone, and perhaps the ages of your journey have been a bit different, but I bet the principles are/were the same.

Thoughts? What has your experience been?