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Love and Great Buildings: A Farewell to My Twenties

I have long said that every birthday after you turn 21 becomes less and less meaningful. I mean, sure it was nice getting that insurance reduction and the ability to rent a car at 25, but they are hardly milestones worthy of note. My birthdays over the last decade have pretty much run the gamut from large parties to small, intimate dinners  to the one I celebrated right after transferring to Pensacola for training, where I didn't know anyone. I don't actually remember how or if I celebrated that day.

It's only natural - especially for writers - to be reflective at a time like this. I've long told myself that turning 30 wouldn't be a big deal and, for the most part, it isn't. I imagine when I wake up tomorrow, life will continue much as it did during my first two decades of life. Thus far, I've been largely free of the quarter-life crisis to which many before me have fallen victim. I'm not making any big career or lifestyle changes, much less buying a speedboat or sports car. I never really understood the appeal of a sports car anyway, they seem very impractical to me.

However, I am not completely free of cliches. Over the last several weeks, I've been spending a lot of time taking inventory of my life. Again, I think it's that writer/preacher gene in my shining through. As human beings are want to do, I've not only being thinking about where I am in life, but where my friends are too. For any of you out there who have already turned 30, I suppose I don't have to tell you that it seems like everyone is having a kid. Like literally everyone. Two co-workers and friends of mine recently had their first child, while I've received good news of a pregnancy from two other close friends; one of which actually came today. Almost everyone is married, settled into full-time jobs and have things like a house and a lawnmower and furniture they actually went to a store and purchased. Clearly, I'm not on that level yet.

You might think all of this would make me feel like I've fallen behind in the race of life. In truth, I kind of expected to feel that way as well. I've been pleasantly surprised to discover that I don't. A great many things changed in my 29th year of life that in some ways I feel like I'm still playing catch up with myself. One year ago I was headed towards grad school and - probably - marriage and kids and all that stuff. A year later, I'm single, out of school, and living as normal a life as is possible for someone in my line of work.

And I'm happy to report that I'm as happy as I've ever been.

The reasons for this, I think, are pretty numerous. Though I've led a pretty untraditional life up to this point, I think my twenties were actually pretty rad. I got to be a worship leader for a 10,000 member church. I became a paramedic, a job that I truly love. I served my country in the US Navy. I have lived in Texas, Florida, and Washington. I've set foot in Guam, Japan, South Korea, Qatar, Afghanistan, and Kuwait. And that's not including countries in which I only saw the airport. I drove from Florida to Washington and then from Washington to Iowa and discovered some beautiful parts of this country. I ran three half marathons. I met Ben Rector. I got diagnosed with PTSD (yes, I'm counting that as a good thing). I've gotten to bring a message of hope about mental wellness to hundreds of people. I get paid to play music. I started using the word "rad." All in all, my twenties were pretty kick-ass.

Of course, the last decade hasn't always been so joyous or easy. I got diagnosed with PTSD (see what I did there?). I've struggled with depression and anxiety. I've had numerous relationships end. I've been mortared. I've seen a lot more death than the average person. I've set goals for myself that I haven't achieved. In more ways than one, my twenties kicked my ass.

That's the natural rhythm of life though, isn't it? Good and bad. Ups and downs. Life then death. Good Friday, then Easter Sunday. That's how it works. Things start and then they end.

But that doesn't mean that some things don't endure. In fact, I can't imagine trying to navigate life if something wasn't steadfast. In the midst of struggles, we have to have something onto which we can cling. That's what gives us the courage to step off the plane in Afghanistan. It gives us the power to say "yes" to adventures and to the unknown. Like a lucky coin, we keep it tucked away in our pocket to be consulted both in times of trial and in times of joy.

It probably won't surprise anyone when I say that it's love that empowers us to endure change.

Love and great buildings will survive
Strong hearts and concrete stay alive
Through the great depressions
The best things are designed
To stand the test of time
— Andrew McMahon, 'Love and Great Buildings'

The above quoted song is, in my humble opinion, the best on Andrew's new album. But what struck me recently is this: great buildings don't survive without people to take care of them. Without upkeep, even the best things will succumb to time. There has to be someone there to clean and do maintenance. Moreover, buildings are meant to be lived in. They are meant for people.

And so are you.

You were created to endure, but you can't do it alone.

If you are like me and believe that all of this certainly isn't a happy accident, then you will know exactly what I mean. You and I were designed not to evacuate this life, but to be here and it live it fully. It makes sense then that God would know that life is fully of constant change and trial. The last ten years of my life bear witness to that truth, the same as yours probably do. But those years also bear witness to another, equally powerful and important truth: that you were created for love and love endures. It is not such much the idea that you were tailor-made for your specific circumstance, but rather that you were provided the secret weapon that allows you to face any circumstance.

Ten years ago I was sophomore in college. I hadn't yet met the people who would later give me an opportunity to lead worship at Hope. I wasn't a paramedic. Military service was far from my mind. I was way into a girl who wasn't into me. Twenty year old Chris had no idea what was coming for him. But I am here, ten years later, having done a bucket list's worth of stuff. I'm a happy and healthy person. A person who understands himself. And I simply cannot imagine wading through the last 10 years alone. I wouldn't have made it. But thankfully, I was never asked to go it alone.

The last ten years have taught me the importance of community. We are designed for it. We need it. We are worse when we don't have it.

You and I were designed to stand the test of time. But not alone. We were meant to do it together. Maybe you're reading this and you don't believe in God. No matter what you belief, I urge you to believe in other people. The other day I watched Coldplay's Superbowl Halftime Show from a couple years ago because what I do with my free time is my business... And the final set piece - pictured above - really hit home for me. Given all that has happened in my life, I think it would be understandable if I had ended up an angry, jaded person. But I'm not. I believe that people actually do care about each other. I believe that being in community is paramount to tapping into our full potential. I believe that you and I, together, can navigate every mountaintop, every valley of the human experience. And all of the stuff in-between. I believe in love.

So I raise proudly raise a glass to my twenties and, in so doing, so good-bye to a pretty crazy ten years. For all of the "great depressions", I wouldn't change one moment. Because each moment brought here, to this place.

This place where I believe in love.