Gen Y/Millenials are now officially old. Well maybe not old, but old enough to no longer be the new kids on the block. Definitions of when Gen Y/Millenials were born vary widely, but sometime around 1980 seems to be the general consensus. Which means that most members of the generational cohort have turned thirty or are in their mid to late twenties. Many Gen Y’s tell me that they do not feel ‘grown up’ but the raw data of their lived years tells a different story. Despite our culture having a liquid idea of maturity, Gen Y’s are well into adulthood.
This ageing of Gen Y changes everything. Whilst society has critiqued the perceived shallowness of Gen Y, it also has placed huge expectations upon them. Just as Gen Xrs and Baby Boomers were feted as generations who were going to shake up the status quo. Gen Y’s have also been told that they will change the world in radical ways, that they will reshape government, social policy, organisations and the Church. They have been told that they are gifted, special and connected and indeed many of them are. But such promises actually tell us more about our society than they necessarily tell us about Generation Y.
Despite our cultures supposed postmodern outerwear, we still hold to the myth of progress. Thus we invest huge amounts of hope in the young. We expose our Greek roots here, our fear of ageing, our obsession with physical perfection, are all rooted in the Hellenic idea that youth will save us. Rousseau reinvigorated this idea during the enlightenment, it is still just as strong today. We fear youth but we also want them to save us, to make a better go of the world than we did.
So what does this mean? Well I am sure that as we speak a must read book is being written describing the generation that comes after Y. I have an office bet that in the next year Time magazine will run a cover story on Gen Y’s younger, cooler siblings, which places upon their shoulder the mantle of changing the world. Gen Z will all of a sudden be in the shop window and corporations, churches and NGO’s will be scrambling to understand, motivate and recruit them.
If you are Gen Y, you will suddenly realise that there is a hipper bunch of kids who are ten years younger than you, who think that the bands that you listen too are too commercial or too passe. Kids who don’t have the emerging wrinkles that you have around your eyes. Kids who see the world in different ways than you. Kids who look at you wondering why you are at a summer dance festival at your age.
Then you will look into the mirror and feel an existential gnawing deep inside, as the dawning realisation comes over you that you are no longer young, no longer the centre of attention. But don’t worry, do not fear. This is a sublimely liberating moment.
Despite culture telling you that ageing is a bad thing, the ancient and tested wisdom which oozes from the book of Proverbs tells a different story. The lands that you will soon fully inhabit, filled with responsibility, commitments and the limitations of mortality are the fields in which God truly shapes you into his vessel.
Once you realise that your life mistakes seem to count double after the age of twenty five, you are offered a God given opportunity to replace culturally acquired hubris with biblical humility, you are now ready to be a disciple. Once you realise that you are not so much defined by the things others have done to you but rather now the things that you do to others, you are now ready to be a disciple.
Once you realise that life is not about crafting an all conquering career path, or collating a portfolio of incredible moments, but rather about self denial, loving the unlovable, and living within a web of covenantal relationships, you are ready to be a disciple. Once you realise that you are not going to change the world under your own steam, but that God is interested in changing you in order to change the world, you are ready to be his disciple.