Do you remember who you were at 22? I do. It is the age that bridged my third and fourth year of college. By 22 I had already met my now husband (although, I didn’t realize it at the time.) I spent this birthday at a diner convincing truckers they needed Jesus and the Lord had broken my heart for unchurched youth. This was the age that I scraped together all of my money and made the decision to spend a year in England at missionary school, even though most people thought this was crazy. Most days I wish I could go back to 22. Why? I genuinely took the freedom to go, be and see all Christ wanted me to. The world had yet to convince me I could be held back.
So why is it that Taylor Swift’s recent sugary sweet sensation, “22,” bothers me a little? Yes, along with the rest of America I am singing along. How can we help it? She has created this way of crafting a message almost anyone can relate to. When she started popping up on the play lists of my inner city students a couple of years ago, it didn’t shock me much. There is nothing appalling or shockingly hateful in the lyrics or message, however, I wonder if it is sends a subtle message that I just wish it didn’t.
The wonder of 22 is that you don’t have everything figured out, while at the same time are pretty convinced you know most everything. The heart behind the song conveys an age when life is a little more carefree and daring, this isn’t bad. However, it also perpetuates a stereotype that keeps an “older generation,” from seeing anyone under 25 as a viable leader. For at 22 life is about living in the moment and thinking of only ourselves.
I had a conversation just yesterday with a fellow youth worker about how it feels like this generation is more afraid of success than failure. If no one (even the celebrities) believe there is more to “feeling young,” than living for the night, then they don’t have to step up. This loses the true message that when we make a choice to follow Christ, he calls us to be ALL for him TODAY in all we do. Age doesn’t come into play at all.
This past weekend my 11 year old daughter blew the doors off of my expectations. She announced she was going to run family devos on Sat morning. I asked more than once throughout the week if she was preparing. Honestly, out of my 4 kids she was the one I believed would take it the least seriously. Her answer to me just kept being, “I’ve got this.” We decided on an outdoor location for our time together. Truthfully, when she pulled out her Bible and a notebook, I was shocked. She read the story of Stephan, and other than insisting we should pronounce it, “Steffahn,” she was spot on. Her questions led were well thought out, drew us into conversation and inspired application. Her siblings have already started a campaign to collect shoes for the people of Haiti (at 12), becoming the photographer for our ministry (at 13), and serving in ministry. If this is where they are in Middle School, I am not content to believe at 22 it is just about the “PARTAY..”
Look at what Taylor Swift has accomplished by 22. She doesn’t realize she is undermining her own accomplishments and fight to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, messages like her song cause a cyclical issue. The older generation looks down on the young. The young can’t be more, because they aren’t “allowed.” They play to the role they have been relegated to. So, those older look down. It could go the other way as well.
Now, Before you accuse me of over thinking this, let me state I do like the song. It’s catchy, and it is not the worse out there. I’m just pondering are we content to believe that “feeling 22″ is ONLY about hanging out and hooking up?
Will we be brave enough to break the cycle? Can we help our youth to know it’s not about being the leaders of tomorrow, but of today?
What are you doing to help your students know they were meant for more NOW?