Adulthood's "Rusty Tools"

It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox, full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools—friendships, prayer, conscience,  honesty—and said, Do the best you can with these, they will have to do. And mostly, against all odds, they’re enough.

—Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

As a child, adults seem to have special powers. In elementary school, high schoolers seemed so grown up, so wise. And then you find yourself walking through the halls of the typical American high school, with the relationship drama, destructive pranks, and sophomoric arrogance—perhaps not so grown up after all.

I remember a moment of realization in high school that I was now the age of those teenagers I had once looked up to. I was now the person on the stage in the high school play, or leading worship with my youth group, or helping at summer camp. And remembering my perception as a 10 year old of those so seemingly grown-up teens, I struggled to know if I had been so grossly mistaken or if the maturity levels of teens had dropped precipitously since my days in elementary school.

Considering the repetition of this sentiment, I’m inclined to believe that it’s the former. When we’re young, we think those older than us have discovered the secrets of life or have some sort of insider knowledge. But then we grow up and realize that part of becoming an adult is figuring it out as you go along, without secret knowledge, sometimes without knowing where your next step will take you.

I had a friend who recently faced one of those psychologically challenging age-markers, and she said her struggle came because here she was standing on the brink of another decade of her life, and she felt unprepared.

But I wonder if we’re ever really prepared. I wonder if part of the journey of life is continually staring into the unknown, the uncharted territory of another season of life and living as faithfully as we can muster. We follow the road markers left by those who have gone before us, trying to learn from their wisdom and from the ways they strayed.

This calls us into a reality of dependence—on the Lord and on each other. We’re all sojourners, supporting each other on the road, calling out warnings and encouragements as we hit the twists and turns. We’re all groping towards what it looks like to follow our Master, depending on Him each day for new strength, new marching orders. We never fully arrive; we never fully get it down. But perhaps that’s just a part of the adventure. We put one foot in front of the other, armed with our “rusty tools,” bravely living into our futures.