A strange thing happened along the way of my 30s. I started losing my cynicism. And I think a lot of my peers have too. My first question, in relationships, in church, and in life is no longer "What is wrong with this?" I no longer think that my generation, or any generation, knows better than everyone else. I have started asking new questions like "What can I learn from this?" and "how is God at work in this situation or person that I don't fully understand?"
I think that cynicism gets challenged when one or more of these four things happen:
- You get married.
- You have children.
- You become a leader.
- You realize that you are the church, not only someone who is influenced by the church.
The shift from cynicism to hope can be abrupt. When I became a pastor it was quite a shock to realize that I had become the object of cynicism rather than one of its many subjects. When my wife and I got married we realized that our skepticism about relationships could absolutely not extend to our marriage if we wanted to survive. When my good friends went from a large church they attended sporadically to a small community that required their participation and leadership, they were disoriented, even lost. But in time they came to create something beautiful, a community that became a harbor for recovering cynics.
Don't get me wrong: I still asking probing questions and have a healthy suspicion toward some institutions and people. But most of my new questions are designed to draw me in to a greater understanding and intimacy, not to protect me from those things, as my old questions did. In the end, cynicism is exhausting and poisonous and profoundly lonely. I am tired of holding the world at arms length. I don't want out anymore. I want in.