A quick perusal of social media is all it takes.
One friend just got married. Another is celebrating some big accomplishment at work. Another started a nonprofit in a third world country.
If you’re like me, you may deal with the nagging feeling that you’re behind the eight ball in life.
I just turned 30 this year, and I often feel like a slow turtle while everyone else is racing ahead in their careers, their families and their personal lives.
It doesn’t help that media is constantly reminding us of people who have hit it big young—Mark Zuckerberg isn’t even 30 yet, and Steve Nash is the oldest man in the NBA—at the ripe old age of 40. Panic can start to set in when we realize we’re just trying to figure out how to pay the rent while others our age are figuring out how to change the world. Never mind those who are half our age and are creating breakthrough cancer-screening tests .
But here are a few reasons that you’re not falling behind in life, even if you aren’t married, don’t have 2.5 kids, and didn’t create an entire organization that is helping to end world hunger in your twenties.
Fast Doesn’t Always Mean Better.
From relationships to skill sets, it takes a while to figure things out. None of us want a brain surgeon who rushed through medical school or skipped some classes. We expect doctors to spend roughly 10 years in upper-level education before we let them cut us open or even look in our ears. We assume our college professors spent nearly as much time in the library or the lab becoming experts in their respective fields. You may not have a Ph.D. or an M.D., but it can take a long time to become excellent in anything. You might not actually be behind; you might be becoming proficient.
Solid Relationships Take Lots of Time.
Most of us don’t want to be standing at the altar making promises to someone we barely know. Meaningful relationships—romantic or platonic—require intentional, invested time to build. The history that you have with your best friend matters—because that history over months and years has helped create trust, a foundational element in close relationships.
One of the most important things we can learn on this earth is how to love others well, so wherever you are in relationships, maybe you’re not behind. Maybe you’re learning how to love the ones in front of you well.
You Don’t Have to be Young to Make a Difference.
Unfortunately, American culture seeks after the fountain of youth and has idolized the teenage and young adult years in the process. Once our skin starts to wrinkle and our responsibilities increase, there’s an underlying insinuation that we become less able to change the world.
But lest we think all the world-changers are young, just remember when Nelson Mandela became the president of South Africa (age 75) or when Mother Teresa was recognized for her work among the poor (although she served for years, she did not receive the Nobel Peace Prize until age 69). You might work a long time at something you love before anyone else notices—or until change really starts happening. That doesn’t mean you’re behind. It means you’re faithful.
Staying in Step With Christ Means We Are Never Behind.
Ultimately, we are not “behind” in life if we are where Jesus has called us to be. Next to Jesus—with Him—is the exact place we are supposed to be. If His pace with us is slower than it is with our friends, it is not our responsibility to try to catch up to them. Our responsibility is to stay next to Christ.
When we compare ourselves to others, it’s easy to worry that we are missing out on the life that we see them living. The apostle Peter seemed to be headed down this path. At the end of the book of John, Peter asks Jesus about what was going to happen in John’s life. Jesus’ response? “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22).
When we find ourselves comparing ourselves to others, we can remember the words of Jesus—“You follow me!” Jesus has us where He has us because He loves us. We’re not behind if we’re with Jesus. We’re right where we need to be.