What’s Happening in Your 30’s: Expansion, Exhaustion, and Hard Work
The decade of the 30’s is a little less self-absorbed than the previous decade (no offense, 20-somethings). The relational, financial, and vocational commitments made as you move through young adulthood demand more structure and responsibility. This will be one of the most intense seasons of output in your life, particularly if you are raising children.
Now imagine you were given a piece of land to homestead. You have multiple fields each representing different roles, relationships, or arenas of your life… a field or two for your career producing your unique crop to contribute, one for your marriage and one for each child (if you have them), one for friendships, one for your extended family, and any other major roles you hold in your life. An incredible amount of work into goes into the cultivating of these fields; it’s a constant juggling act to figure out where to focus your energy. Your entire life is absorbed in the growth and development of these different fields.
If you have a spouse, he/she is partnering with you to build the homestead, sometimes working together in certain fields, sometimes dividing and conquering. He/she, too carries dreams, a working style, skills, and limitations into your homestead. This intense season of work means you are interacting with each other most often from a place of stress and fatigue — not your best selves. Your lives are a mixture of companionship, struggle, and hard work.
If you don’t have a spouse, you are working the fields alone. Some days you relish the solitude, challenge, and freedom to create the homestead as you would like. Other days you long for a companion to dream and build together and find yourself perpetually scanning the horizon to see if someone is going to show up.
Is every field in full harvest? Is everything running like a well-oiled machine? No, at the start of homesteading, a handful of freshly plowed fields are just beginning to sprout, the barn is half done, the house is under renovation, some of the necessary tools still need to be bought, and you are working a long-term plan. This is life in your 30s: competing demands, expansion, exhaustion, and investment for the future.
A few words of advice for the 30 somethings…
Give yourself grace. This phase of life – the building of your ‘homestead,’ requires enormous amounts of energy, the fruit of which you may not harvest for years. Your personal needs will often feel lower in priority, and they are — for a season. You will be developing new muscles in this decade, learning how to pour your life into others, to fight for health in yourself and others, to keep an open heart in the face of unfulfilled dreams, to hold to your vows, and to develop a long-term mentality. You have reason to be exhausted.
You must prioritize where to spend your energy. Because your energy is limited, you will need to prioritize your focus; you cannot tend well too many fields. Some fields, particularly those which involve relationships, may only be available to you for a season— if you miss these opportunities, you cannot have them back. Many people look back and regret their decisions like not being present to aging parents, friendships, growing children, or their spouse. Take time to ask someone older than you where they wished they had invested their time in their 30’s. Eliminate some of the peripheral places which are not bearing fruit like relationships which drain you, places you serve out of obligation, and things you can invest in later. Be prepared for some of your areas of gifting and passions to lie dormant in this season. Focus your energy on your most important fields.
Celebrate the beauty of your dreams coming to life. Some of the things you have dreamed about since childhood are finally being realized: traction in your career, expanding relationships, setting up a home. Parts of your life will be richer and more beautiful than you ever imagined. Many people long for ‘just one more day’ to revisit life in this decade, particularly if they were raising children. However, the intensity of this season will easily rob you of joy if you let it. Take time to regularly savor the beauty of your unfolding life. Don’t wait for everything to be done and for every dream to be fulfilled — sit down in the mess and look around you. Cherish the faces which come to mind. Celebrate your contribution. Take pride in your progress. Lean in and hear God say, “Well done! I see your hard work. I’m proud of you!” (Then get up and get back to work.)
Expect your dreams to bump up against REALITY. No one’s life turns out exactly as they planned. Mixed in with the beauty, you will most likely be experiencing profound disappointments. A career may not be as fulfilling as you hoped. You may not have found a mate or been able to have a child. Your marriage may not be a place of companionship. Motherhood may not been as rewarding as you hoped. Each of these disappointments surfaces deep-seated questions around your choices, self-worth, longings, and life trajectory. Don’t ignore those negative feelings— learn to hold beauty and sorrow in each hand simultaneously.
You are going to have to face your inner world… Behind each disappointment lies an invitation to go inward. Follow your heart breaks, your broken relationships, your addictions, your damaging self-talk, your fears and anxiety, your drivenness… they will lead you to places that need healing, restoration, and forgiveness – for yourself and others. Strength will be forged when you go to the dark places of your heart. The lessons you learn there will be gifts that serve you the rest of your life. Get into counseling. Choose to move towards health whether or not others go with you. Find a support group. Pursue healing prayer. Find a mentor. The health and vibrancy of your homestead will be directly linked to your willingness to go inward. Take courage – do what it takes to go there!
Take time to address your spiritual being. Your spiritual life is not a separate field. Your spiritual life (or lack thereof) is carried into each day because your spirit is the place from which your whole being flows. It is worth taking time to explore a relationship with God. You have the potential to face every life crisis, every question that arises, every storm that comes, through the power of God — when you involve Him in your homestead. Talk to God. Journal your questions. Read the Bible. Explore different communities of faith. Look for a revelation of God’s character in nature. Ask someone with a vibrant faith for a book recommendation. Take a step of faith and ask God to reveal Himself to you.
One other thing worth mentioning here. This decade is generally much more difficult for women than for men because so much is stirred in women about identity. In fact, the 30s Crisis is to women what the Mid-life Crisis is to men. Stay tuned for my next post about how to talk YOUR 30 something female self/friend/daughter/wife down from the cliffs of insanity. 🙂
A Blessing Today for the 30-somethings
I bless this decade of your 30’s.
I bless you with eyes to see the beauty of your dreams coming to life, satisfaction with your hard work, and delight in each of the fields granted to your care.
I bless the mess of a life in process… the partially tilled fields where you ran out of energy, the struggle to figure out priorities, the learning curve and mistakes, and the relational friction that emerges in this season.
I bless your dreams not yet fulfilled. I bless you to keep your heart open in the wait, to resist bitterness and despair, and to find that hope can co-exist with unfulfilled longings.
I bless you with courage and desire to go inward into the dark places of your heart knowing that there begins the path to healing and freedom.
And I bless you with a revelation of light in the darkness. May you discover the God who hovers over chaos to bring order, who specializes in redemption, and who brings beauty from ashes.
I bless your unfolding homestead today.