“You are so young, enjoy it!” Who hasn’t heard this occasional, well-intended encouragement from someone older?
Peter Pan in Neverland, delayed adulthood, extended adolescence, the vanishing American adult, adultolescence… Call it what you want; it is a thing.
Unfortunately, this trend is becoming the new normal. We hear evidence straight from “the seat of the scornful” in the new verb adulting. This word is often used in a mocking, derogatory spirit to reference responsible activities and to point out the utter lack thereof. One might say, ‘I finished all my adulting for the week.’
In his book Just Do Something, Kevin DeYoung states, “Too many young people today have no stability, no certainty, no predictability, little decisiveness and lots of self-doubt. It takes longer and longer for people to settle down. And some never do.”  Then he drops this startling statistic: “In 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men completed all the major transitions into adulthood by age thirty. These transitions include leaving home, finishing school, becoming financially independent, getting married, and having a child. By 2000 only 46 percent of women completed these transitions by age thirty, and only 31 percent of men…”
Ben Sasse, author of The Vanishing American Adult, writes that “our kids sense this larger cultural drift and respond with a broad range of time-killers. But if the most precious gift we have is time, why would we want to kill it?”
There are pitfalls everywhere for anyone with too much time and too little responsibility. Scripture is full of warning. Ecclesiastes 11:4 says, “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the cloud shall not reap.”
We are not immune to the culture around us. The RFPA recently published two fantastic resources on the subject of dating. Yet, young women (and their parents) continue to sigh about how some young men seem to want to “hang out” or go through months of texting or Snapchatting before an actual date! Guys, do you find yourself hesitant to pursue a relationship because you fear it might not be worth the discomfort of putting yourself out there in that way? Do you experience paralysis at the thought of merely getting a cup of coffee to get to know a Christian young woman? Is it easier to text or Snapchat for a few months prior, to create a false sense of familiarity? If you desire to marry, yet have more golf games than dates by the time you’re thirty, you have taken a wrong turn somewhere! Too large a group of men live yet as boys.
Let’s unpack some possible reasons for this trend, besides the general push from the world that this is ‘normal.’ “What if she doesn’t like me or says no?” We all are overly concerned about what other people might think of us: the peer culture. In his book When People are Big and God Is Small, Edward Welch asks, “What is it that shame-fear and rejection-fear have in common? To use a biblical image, they both indicate that people are our favorite idol. We exalt them and their perceived power above God.” People-pleasing can play a significant role in our hesitation to date.
Our procrastination is often due to outright laziness too. Sometimes it just seems more comfortable to put off action. Months turn to years, and gradually we adjust and then it’s a habit. The world we live in makes it easy to avoid making essential decisions or taking on any commitments or obligations. Even our healthcare system has adjusted to allow 26-year-olds to have benefits under their parents.
Who hasn’t had the ‘what do you want to do when you grow up’ conversation? Meandering through options takes time and sometimes it can paralyze us. Perhaps we avoid taking action because we are just not comfortable with change in our lives. In our prayers, we want to know God’s will for our lives, yet in our hearts we really ask God to make it easy for us.
Those who are dating, but delay marriage due to their pursuit of career and finance because ‘it will make things easier for a future family,’ take caution. In some cases this may be wise; however, established homes don’t need to be a new build! They don’t need to be full of every comfort the Western world offers. Financial cushion will not immunize you from any ‘troubles and afflictions’ marriage WILL bring. Making sure career, finance, and accomplishing X, Y and Z before establishing a home may indicate an attachment to this earth and a desire for ease and comfort in life. Know the difference between wants and needs.
Do you need that extra time living in your parent’s basement because you feel you first need to find a ‘fulfilling career’? DeYoung encourages younger generations to ask their grandparents if their jobs were fulfilling and says that “they will look at you as if you were speaking a different language, because you are.” They worked to put food on the table, support their families, churches, and schools. I’m sure this was hard at times, but hard is not bad. In fact, it was good. True fulfillment is service in God’s kingdom.
The good Lord tells a man to “rejoice with the wife of thy youth” (Prov. 5:18). For many, this is an explicit calling to marry! He gives young men strength: “The glory of young men is their strength.” He calls young men to rejoice: “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth” (Ecc. 11:9). This is true sexually as well. Are you leading yourself into temptations and mocking Him with your time delays?
Young men, the onus is on you. You will be the God-ordained heads of homes and future spiritual leaders. Call it old fashioned, but wouldn’t logic dictate that you take the initiative in the area of dating? Pursue marriage and establish a home. “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord” (Prov. 18:22)!
The culture has downplayed responsibility, making it seem unattractive, ugly, and cumbersome. Meanwhile, it distracts us with every opportunity for amusement and entertainment. The Beacon Lights is a magazine geared toward young people. Young people, your youth should be a finite stage in life. Your adolescence is a launching point from childhood to adulthood. Not a place to stay. Do not let idleness, passivity, or amusement keep you here. Serve Him in all that you do. Get after it.
Originally published March 2021, Vol 80 No 3
 Ben Sasse, The Vanishing American Adult
 KDY pg13 (Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something)
 KDY pg37
 KDY pg11
 BS pg18
 EW 44 (Edward T. Welch, When People are Big and God is Small, page 44)
 KDY 29 (Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something, Page 29)