(This blog will take the average adult roughly 3.5 minutes to read.)
I’ve been that way for a few months now.
Now that I’m out of my twenties, I can talk about them like I ever had even the slightest clue what was going on.
One of the most pervasive theme of my twenties was this notion that it was “time to get my shit together.” Honestly, I never knew what that meant. In my early 20s, it might’ve meant finishing my degree. In my mid 20s, it might’ve looked like getting a well-paying job that had something to do with that degree that I completed. In my late 20s, it felt a lot like paying off debt, holding down a good job, doing adulty things like paying my bills on time and having money in a savings account, doing my laundry before I needed underpants—and putting it away—losing weight/being healthier, getting married (or maybe even just going on a date), not intentionally dressing in Buzz Lightyear colors to work, intentionally dressing like a female adult human—you know, things like that.
But I never knew what “getting my shit together” would look like if I ever even got within eyesight of it. How much of my debt (both student and stupid) would need to be paid off before I could see my shit all together on the horizon? How long do I need to hold onto a job before then? How much weight would I need to lose to be considered a shit-together adult?
Late into year 29 (age 28), the notion of getting my shit together started weighing heavier than it ever had before. All of the shit that I hadn’t yet gotten together started to pile up into a huge manure pile that taunted me with its stench. (Yes, I know the analogy breaks down a little here, because if my shit is in a pile, it is actually together. Sshh. Just go with it.) At some point between then and now, after years of feeling like a failure at adulting—and the months of conversations and thoughts and prayers and declaring myself a failure, I realized two things:
- Nobody actually knows what “getting their shit together” means. It’s like this illusive magical state of amalgamated adulting that no one has ever actually been to, but we swear to God we know people who are there. It’s a fucking unicorn.
- “Getting my shit together” is a terrible, terrible God.
No amount of actually getting my shit together ever actually sufficed—or made me stop feeling like a failure.
Over the years, in my own relationship with Jesus, I’ve learned that when I feel like a complete failure there’s usually not just a lie being told, but also heeded, and a useless and powerless failure of a god being worshipped, too. Usually that god is me. I am a terrible, terrible God, but often seemingly my favorite one to worship.
The same holds true for failing at getting my shit together. My own ability to be successful at anything, my own control over my own life, my own self-sufficiency—failure at getting my shit together is really just failure to be sovereign over my own life. I worship myself as sovereign, then fail at sovereignty…
I think in Christendom we’re glad to talk about how we take hold of these lies—and just need to let go of them and grasp Truth—but we don’t talk much about what happens when that lie that was a seed takes root and we start to worship the rotten fruit the tree bares. We gladly talk about the lies being thrown our way—the lie that we’re failing at something (adulting, womaning, humaning, etc.), but fail to discuss how we’ve turned that lie into an idol.
We’ll talk for days about the part that doesn’t give us any responsibility. But we can’t seem to say, “I didn’t just hear the lie, but I worshipped it, too. I am an idolater.” and see the part that calls for repentance.
It’s not the lie that produces the feeling of failure. It’s worshipping the lie—and that lie failing us—that produces the feeling of failure.
I wrote in Why “Shitty Women”? that for years I rooted my identity in being the best failure you’d ever seen. When you plant an apple seed, you get an apple tree. When you plant a mango seed, you get a mango tree. Those same lies and idols that bore the fruit of feelings of failure at womanhood were the ones that bore the same fruit on the adulthood tree—because they were from the same seed. That same seed that I was a failure that was planted when I was seven gave way to a whole grove of failure trees—one of them being that I was failing to get/have/keep my shit together.
And I kept eating fruit from that grove wondering why it was always rotten—and kept watering the trees thinking maybe someday that failure tree would grow righteous fruit.
It won’t happen.
That grove needs to be burned to the ground, the soil broken up, tilled, and renewed, and a new orchard planted. Parts of it are on fire now, but I keep finding trees that aren’t aflame yet.
I’m never going to “get my shit together” because I want to be done worshipping that failing idol—don’t think for a second that I’m done, but know that the grove is on fire. I have no doubt that it may take ages to burn those trees to the ground—and I know that burning a forest gives way for new life, and makes the soil all the richer for the new seed that’s planted.
“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’” [Revelation 21]
Things aren’t new yet. But that day is coming—and for now, I’m choosing to look to that day with hope, while the Master of the grove continues to burn my rotten trees down.