Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I Can Shave, But I Like The Stubble.

The Talk of the 20-Somethings
I'm writing with a bit of conflict in my heart as I try to sort through all this talk of the 20-something lately. First it was the now widely circulated New York Times article which attempts to label the lack of taking on responsibility as "emerging adulthood." Jeffery Jensen Arnett, a psychologist who coined the phrase, says that this phase of life is much like the emergence of adolescence 100 years ago due to several sociological factors.
Among the cultural changes he points to that have led to “emerging adulthood” are the need for more education to survive in an information-based economy; fewer entry-level jobs even after all that schooling; young people feeling less rush to marry because of the general acceptance of premarital sex, cohabitation and birth control; and young women feeling less rush to have babies given their wide range of career options and their access to assisted reproductive technology if they delay pregnancy beyond their most fertile years.
These "cultral" factors naturally lead to the question, "is emerging adulthood a bad thing?"

For Mark Driscoll the answer is unequivocally yes. In a recent Washington Post article he wrote,
The New York Times Magazine ran a story this past week called "What is it about 20-Somethings?" looking at the new life stage of emerging adulthood. The article echoed what other recent studies are showing and something we've been saying at Mars Hill Church for awhile: The world today is filled with boys who can shave.
His response was not to call these "boys" "emerging adults," but rather "childish consumers" or, for those in the church, "cowards and complainers." They are marked by boys in mens' bodies who still live with their parents, have a part-time job to support their video game addiction that keeps them from ever having a steady relationship with a real woman. They can shave, but they either don't have money for a razor or, if they are hipsters, they choose not to shave at all.

My Sitch
I've been shaving since the age of 15. That doesn't necessarily mean I needed to shave at that age - I think I only did it about once a month - but I remember thinking that shaving signaled a transition in my life from boyhood to manhood.

At that age I wanted to be a man. I wanted to be the man that no man had ever been in my life because my dad was never in the picture and no one ever really stepped up to fill that void. At that age I had worked a few part-time jobs, but my main income was allowance. At that age I was a fairly young believer in Christ with no real spiritual support in the home. At that age I not only discovered girls, but girls discovered me, making for some very poor decisions. At that age I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I loved computers and thought that might be my track. At that age I felt misunderstood and left out of the most important social circles. Though there were some definite memorable moments in high school and though I am still good friends with a few from those years even today, I would much rather forget them. However, I do remember wanting to be a real man.

Fast forward to today. I will be 28 years old next Monday. I have been a believer for 16 years. I have basically supported myself since I left home for college, working mad crazy odd jobs and raising financial support through Campus Crusade for Christ and my church. I am now surrounded by excellent community. I live in a two-bedroom apartment with a solid believer who is a part of The Line, our small church plant here in Chicago. I finished college with a degree I didn't use, worked for Campus Crusade for four years, one year in Italy, three at the University of Florida, and now I am back in school getting my Masters of Divinity at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I start my third year in two days and I finish in December of 2011. I will be 29 1/2. Today I am admitting more than ever before in recent years that I have no idea what I'm going to do when seminary is over. Contrary to popular belief, seminary is not about getting answers, folks. I have more questions now than I did when I entered (not faith questions) as I wrestle with my calling before God. I will have no substantial debt when I am done thanks to countless supporters. But at this rate I will also have no real home, no real job, no real marriage and no real kids (I won't have fake ones either). Does this mean I'm not a real man?

Confused, Conflicted & Confessing
After reading both articles I am left confused. Has the category of "adolescence" been helpful at all or has it just screwed us all up, leaving us unprepared for adulthood? Is this idea of "emerging adulthood" legitimate on any level or is it just another educated human excuse for our sinful rebellion against God resulting in complacent cowards afraid to step into the roles He has created for us? I'm still wading through these, but admit I side more with Driscoll.

Moreover, I'm conflicted about my own life. I respect Mark Driscoll a ton. God has done amazing work through his preaching both around the world and in my life. Mars Hill has been a beacon of light in a very dark part of this country. His church planting network, Acts 29, is exploding and our church is being birthed out of it. Yet every time I read his articles or hear his sermons on this topic I struggle. I always feel like I'm second rate, like I'm not a man and I'm not worthy to even be consider one until I have "a marriage and a mortgage." This also goes for any kind of leadership in the church. I could never counsel a married couple because I just wouldn't know what I'm talking about. I could never be a pastor or be an elder because I'm not married, don't have kids and thus do not fulfill the requirements of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

Being conflicted leads to confession. I'd like to believe that Driscoll is overstating his case to try to bring the pendulum to the middle. He's always been controversial and I think it's calculated because, in a culture known for such realities as the Bill Clinton & Monica Lewinsky, Passion of the Christ, and Jersey Shore, controversy brings out our passions and convictions and for some it persuades them to believe something they didn't before. So I want to take what he writes with a grain of salt, but I have to confess that I think he's both right and wrong. My confession begins with God. In that He is revealing that I am at a stage in life where the core of who I am is being exposed like never before, where the Spirit of God is leading me to see the gospel in profound and fresh ways. He is revealing that in many ways I am not a man I want to be, yet in many ways he is shaping me into the man he wants me to be. I ask "why" a lot to God, but I also say "I trust you" more. I am learning that I am not just a believer in Christ, but also a son of God and co-heir with Christ forever. I am learning that my life is not about my manhood, but Christ's. Whatever great men there have been over time, Jesus is infinitely the greatest (and he had no marriage, mortgage, or munchkins). He who needed no beard took on a beard for us so that we who do have beards could be called true men of God.

I can shave, but I like the stubble. It's the intentional appearance of indecision.

By His Grace.


  1. Thanks for the post brother. I have to say though, I'm not certain Driscoll's or the NYT article was written to you. The fact is, you are making every effort towards preparing yourself for that which God has not revealed. I'm certain that these articles are not aimed at guys like you, still in school but with drive. I'm certain a single doctor finishing his minimum wage residency living with his mother in order to pay off his debts before he marries and opens a practice, would not be considered by society as an emerging adolescent. He would be labeled a wise genius who will one day be saving lives (and filthy rich).

    I hope part of the purpose of this post is to see what your friends think. I'm certain you will get a unanimous opposition to the idea that Andrew Lisi is an emerging adolescant that hasn't hit social/career puberty. Yes Lisi, you are sinful and in need of grace and the gospel. Yes, there are probably some insights you need to process from these articles. But, Jesus has done a great work in you and is preparing you for something wonderful. You're a world changer Lisi. Every person that supports you to go to seminary, and prays for you (like I do), believes that. We wouldn't take the time if we didn't think it were true.

  2. So, I am posting because I love posting comments on peoples stuff.

    Also, I agree with Jutty on everything he says in his comment. Mostly that you do not fit the bill of non-man according to this Driscoll's article.

    There are some things in your piece that seem mis-construed. Particularly the connection between Timothy and Titus references and manhood. I don't think that you connected them in a way to say that being an elder/pastor and a man are one in the same but because of the context it seems that you may be wrestling with that idea.

    I don't believe that is true but I do believe that our society takes something like being a "leader" in the church as an elevated position. This is their/our fault for doing such a thing.

    As far a Mark's rhetoric, he should probably back off a little so as to teach instead of get people so riled up. I would think and hope that this was not a teaching piece as much as a passionate, true but erroneous statement. The heart is clear and true but the article is not directed at you personally or anyone else that desires to live a life unto God.

    It is for the punks out there that are wasting their lives and need a serious wake up call. So for you guys, get off your (i'll be nice here) butts and follow the amazing Christ who does for you what you cannot do for yourself.

  3. Jutty,
    Yeah, I tried to communicate in my post that I don't think it was written to me primarily, but I couldn't help but feel the ripples of it in my life. It is this unspoken pressure for people who have a desire for these things, but aren't there yet for whatever reason, some of them being sinful. The danger is blaming the sin on the reason it hasn't happened yet. Thanks for all the kind words though...I did just want to be a voice for the countless people who are in my boat. Love you bro.

  4. Jimmy,
    Thanks for all the commenting because you are a commenterator.

    You may be right regarding 1 Tim. 3 & Titus 1, but at the same time I feel as though I have this glass ceiling in groups like Acts 29 because I'm not married with a mortgage. I think there is only one single planter in all of Acts 29. Driscoll's rhetoric is strong for an undercurrent that goes mostly unnoticed.

    Like I mentioned to Jutty, there needs to be a voice of balance and also one that speaks for those who do feel the ripples from the large boulders certain writers throw into the great pond that is our culture.

    Love you.

  5. Brother-man, Good words. I agree with alot of the other comments. Driscoll address a broad problem well, but clearly we shouldn't define manhood in terms of mortgage/marriage/munchkins. I do think the church doesn't do well with single people. Outside of twenties (matchmaker) ministries, there's just alot of division and akwardness. I wonder what it would look like for the church to really do better at this. Conversations to be had...

  6. Hey man,
    thanks for writing. I to would say I've been effected largely by Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill. With much respect to Pastor Drisoll, His words can run deep and its been all to easy for me to not think deeply about them, like you have. Sometimes even though I'm married, I can still be that selfish 20-something. God will finish the work he started. I wanna be more like Jesus! Good thoughts man.

    I can grow a beard, but my wife likes me clean shaven.

  7. Katherine, I appreciate the wink, though that leaves a lot of room for interpretation :)

  8. Treat,
    You're right; the church does suck with twentysomething single folk, both male and female, but more so with males. That is Driscoll's take too, which led him to plant Mars Hill in the first place and his main, verbal answer always sounds like his article. As I put in my post as well as the responses to Jutty and Jimmy, I am aware of what he is doing, but I do wish that he himself would bring more balance. My high respect for him can often cloud those times when he is off. Thanks for the words, and your right, more conversations must be had...

  9. Thanks for the words, D Rock. It is interesting to read that married cats still have this issue. I know everything doesn't hinge on marriage and it probably reveals deeper identity issues and lack of belief in the gospel, but it is good to see where other folk are coming from nonetheless.

  10. Love your thoughts on this, Lisi. I think we can be two black and white on this issue. If we do in fact believe that we are to live "gospel-centered" and "gospel-empowered" lives while eschewing legalism and mere pharisaical outward appearances, then I think a lot of one's move from adolescence to adulthood is based on the desires of the heart. Sure, if you were sitting around your parents house (or even mooching off a roommate), watching porn, and drinking beer while living off your endless string of wealthy girlfriends, I'd call you into question. What I think Driscoll forgets is that we have no record of Paul, Timothy, or--most importantly--Jesus being married. What about the 12 disciples? They didn't get wives (that we know of), but they were participating in the mission of God. I think when we package out Mars Hill's culture and problems and try to ship its product everywhere without embracing their principles, we get crap like this coming down the pipeline.

  11. Hey There,
    I am an unlikely person to post a response since I am a grandma that doesn't know anything about beards or stubble. But I want to comment that I am going to post this link on FB for all the young men that I know that are pondering this just like you are. You expressed the godly struggle so well, and your struggle humbly points to Christ. Keep on expressing your thoughts through the written word - I loved reading it.

    If I were your mom, I'd be proud of your drive AND your honest invitation for God to search your heart and motives. (...And not the kind of proud that invites you to move back home so that mommy can take care of you - ha ha!) Keep pressing in...God already has the answers : )

    Also, thanks for the heads up a few weeks ago on the sale of "The Best of Jonathan Edwards." I followed the link, ordered it and someone just brought it down to Ecuador for us. Can't wait to jump in.

  12. Sandi,
    Thanks so much for the words and the repost. You know a thing or two about facial hair - I've seen Steve's goatee! I hope it ministers to other young guys.

    Praying for you. Please keep us posted on everything.

  13. James,
    Thanks for the words. You're right, we can be too "black & white", but I think it is how some influential people choose to communicate. I lightly jab at Driscoll with reference to Jesus not having a "marriage, mortgage or munchkins" and even at that he had no real job. I get what he is communicating for our culture because I know the guys who would rather live in their heads on the couch in front of the TV than in the real world, but Driscoll's words have a ripple effect that have consequences he doesn't seem to be aware of, at least to my knowledge.

    I loved your last sentence. So true.

  14. I think the stubble makes you look mysterious and sexy, and I'm sure that's not just me! Lisi lovers, keep it real!

  15. I'm glad you do not plan to have any fake kids, ha ha! I really enjoyed reading your article, Andrew. I do indeed think that one of the biggest issues guys are facing today is the transition from boy to man. Much of society encourages the lack of growing up. But from a Christian female's perspective, I would like to add that I believe feminism has played a role in it all. Women have risen up to take a role that is not theirs. They have sought to become the leaders, taking the place that belongs to the men. Women are encouraged by the world (and sometimes even the church) to be bold and brash instead of having the gentle, quiet and submissive spirits that are honoring to God. I believe that women have become intimidating to men. This doesn't help marriagelessness. Further, if women are filling the positions of leadership that men are meant to fill, it allows guys to feel ok taking the back seat. They do not then feel the weight of responsibility upon their shoulders; they don't sense the need to step up and take charge. I could go on about this, but that's all I'm going to say for now! :)

    For those who believe in the sovereignty of God, we can thankfully trust that He will lead us to get married when He wants us to. He is so much bigger than the ills of our society. He will indeed use us even as singles. (Perhaps even more-- as we are able to devote even more time to expanding the kingdom of God). It is good to think on these issues, but at the end of the day, we do not want our hearts to be anxious. We want to be still and know that the Lord is God, that He is our Good Shepherd who is ordering our lives.

  16. Great post, Andrew. I appreciate you calling to attention Driscoll's (most-likely?) intentional use of hyberbole. He disassociates himself with artists and poets, but ironically enough, his rhetorical prowess is most fully realized when he makes us of devices like this. The brother know's how to exaggerate to prove a point, but like I'm realizing in constructing our liturgy, good poetry doesn't always make good theology.

    While I, generally, would agree with Driscoll's assessment, I do wonder if there isn't SOMETHING to Arnett's study. Whether or not "emerging adulthood" is legitimate in the sense that it should be cause for restructuring social and economic policy is one question. But the question of it's legitimacy in regards to how it identifies trends, or "calls it like it is" is another.

    After reading the Times' article I can't help but think that the assessment is overwhelmingly legitimate, purely on the basis of my experience! Whether it's sin or not is one thing, but the fact is: it happens and is happening!

    I wonder if Scripture doesn't legitimize a "redeemed version" of emerging adulthood? What would it look like for emerging adults to have an overwhelming experience of the Gospel? I don't think it would necessarily mean we all settle down and have a marriage and mortgage. Have we forgotten that Paul endorses singleness as much, if not more than, marriage (1 Cor 7)? If un-redeemed emerging adults can be examples of irresponsibility, laziness, folly and frivolity, then perhaps the redeemed version is what Paul admonishes Timothy to be: an "example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." (1 Tim 4)

    I say we put our fingers to the sky, feel the shifts in the wind and pray for God's hurricane. If there is a generation of 20-somethings unattached to the system that is 21'st Century Western Civ, then perhaps God is up to something. Perhaps it is our responsibility to harness their desire for adventure, soul-searching, and ultimately "significance" searching and point them towards the most significant, adventurous, soul-thrilling mission and lifestyle that is following Jesus.

    There is good, Gospel work to be done that married-mortgaged folk can't do. Maybe God is assembling an army?

  17. Jon Guerra2:32 PM

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  18. Jon Guerra2:32 PM

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  19. Well said, brother. Thanks for wrestling with your conviction in publication because it matters that you don't fit into those coastal boxes and are trusting Christ with your unshaven path. It matters because it's so tempting to worship man and want to fit into someone else's ideas. It matters because there's others, like me, who remain just as confused and wonder what the 'right' way is.

  20. Interesting read Andrew, and a constant struggle in my life too. Unfortunate for me, I am 23 and still don't shave on a regular basis. Not because I don't want to, rather, I still have a semi baby face turned patchy pirate. But metaphorically, I think that is how my life is. I am mature in mind and in my convictions, but still a child at heart. Is that in itself bad? I don't think so. But that inner, exciting, childishness, absolutely needs to be submissive to my renewed mind (thanks be to God of course).

    I still live at home with my parents, and for that I am grateful. I received my undergrad degree in Finance and Economics. I know how to live, how to be frugal, how to take care of myself, but I don't really have to. And although living without any expenses is a blessing, it is prohibited all that I've learned to flourish. I struggled with some health issues for the past year or so and am just recently starting to bare with them and suppress their effect. If I did not have the parents to support me through that, I would have not been in a good position at all. I would have definitely learned to mature at heart, but my maturity of mind would have greatly suffered.

    Overall, I am confident in the Sovereignty of God. His timing is precise. Because of my health issues I've ended up in Seminary. Call that a coincidence if you'd like, but I don't think so. God is using my (so-called) mature mind and childish heart right now and all I can do is be submissive to his Word. I am confident God will mature me in heart through the experience getting my Masters at Trinity.

    Thanks for some food for thought!

  21. Lee,
    Thanks holmes! You are a scholar and a gentleman.

  22. Caroline, thanks for the words and providing one woman's perspective on this subject. You definitely gave me things I hadn't really thought about before.

  23. Jon, thanks for the words and the insight. That is a very interesting read on Driscoll, one I hope he will eventually see. Also, you are right in at least crediting Arnett's study for making note of the observation. Interestingly though, I think it all began from his own personal experience and he said his twenties were very much in the ether of life, not really rooted in much of anything solid.

    I appreciate your thoughts on a possible way forward. It is not enough to say "this is how it is" nor is it always helpful to say "get off your ass." The gospel is one of grace and truth rooted in the One who is the essence of both.

  24. Thanks for the words, Nathan. Hope things are going well on the other coast!

  25. Zach, thanks for the words and the candidness. It is cool to see how God has brought you here and I am glad that these words help you process through things a little bit more.