A Southwest Airlines commercial shows a woman in an embarrassing predicament and asks the question, “Want to get away?” Ask most young people that question and the answer you’re likely to hear is “Yes, how soon can I go?” Life isn’t working as well as they imagine it should and they need an escape hatch – a journey elsewhere.
Take Veronica for instance. She spends more time crafting her Facebook profile than she does communicating with her parents. We, the curious public, see her likes and dislikes, her musical interests, her friends, her job – but behind all of that Veronica is scared to death to share anything of real importance. She’s insecure – ashamed of the abuse in her past. She developed an eating disorder along the way. She wonders if anyone really cares about her.
But on Facebook, all we see is her smile, a kind of emotional cosmetic that masks her inner angst. Like so many of us, Veronica clings to a version of herself that is just a false self.
After college, Veronica finds herself dissatisfied. Should we be surprised? She’s like so many of us, ducking and hiding from the hard work of contemplation and self-discovery.
Many of us start building that false self early in life. We can’t help but compare ourselves to our peers. Inevitably they are smarter, prettier and more popular than we are. We suffer with the comparison. And well-meaning adults add fuel to the fire with questions like, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
How should we know? We don’t even know who we are!
This sets off a series of experiments in identity. If you’re not smart enough for approval based on academics, you may turn to sports. If you aren’t athletic enough for sports, then perhaps you can pour yourself into a special interest or hobby. And failing that, you can always go find acceptance in the alternative crowd. The grunge crowd, the BMX crowd, the dungeons & dragon crowd – anywhere where you don’t feel judged.
Add to this any kind of chaos on the home front – emotional or physical abuse, divorce, financial pressure, and the primary thing young people feel is unsafe. Not safe at home, not at school, not in church.
As a young person, you yearn to get away from these toxic environments – you sense you need a journey. You long to get away from the stuff that has contributed to the construction of your false self. Perhaps you realize that most of it has little to do with who you are anyway.
As a young person, I felt this – I needed to go on a pilgrimage of some sort to escape my straitjacket self. And maybe you need one too – a discovery process, a chance to see who God made you to be. You were not made to swim in life’s shallows – you deserve the opportunity to learn about yourself, about the world, and about your God. A kingdom journey (here’s an example
) is the vehicle to do this.