Piper on Extended Adolescence and the Gift of Vision

My lovely mother-in-law emailed me a link to a recent piece written by John Piper about the phenomenon of extended adolescence. The piece is helpful and represents a good pastor-centered perspective of this problem in American society. I am glad that Piper is not simply sidestepping this cultural event, as too many pastors do, but that he is addressing it. His thoughts got me thinking on one cause of the “adultolescence” phenomenon: a lack of vision.

What do I mean by this? Many fathers have failed to give their children a vision for their lives. This is of course only one factor among many that contribute to the aforementioned problem. Chief among other factors that one could cover (indeed, that I have and do cover on this blog) are personal laziness and immaturity on the part of young people. With that noted, though, the lack of a life “map” is an overlooked factor in this discussion, I think. I would love to know how many of you out there had a father who gave you a vision for your life–in any form. I don’t mean that he prophesied over your life, or that he told you exactly what you should do with yourself. No, I’m referring to any kind of vision at all. Did he encourage you? Did he point out gifts in your life that you could channel to positive ends? Did he say, “Here’s what you should be thinking about for the future”? I’m guessing that many out there had fathers who failed to provide this vision. Many others were raised in broken homes, and dad was either absent or not around to even begin to provide a vision for life.

This is one reason why so many young people today obsess over the idea of calling. This is why so many twentysomethings bounce from job to job and worry about never finding the right work. This is why many Christians struggle with fear of failure when it comes to vocation. Such people never had a father who gave them a clear picture of the future, who sat them down and talked through their predilections, abilities, interests, and goals, who attempted to provide guidance and support before launching their children into the world. I’m dealing with this problem from a masculine standpoint in this article, but this is also why so many Christian women struggle to figure out their place and role in the world. For whatever reason, dad never came alongside them and instructed them as to what is truly important in the world. This absence has left a generation of women alone in figuring out what to do in life and how to make sense of it all. With such a picture, it is unsurprising that we are in a cultural maturity crisis. As parents lost sight of their roles and responsibilities in twentieth century America, so too did their children. Now, they are drifting, and America is scratching its head, and our civilization is slowly tipping into the sea.

So here is the remedy, as I can see it: we need a generation of men to teach themselves to have vision. We need these young men to set out to do something big with their life, something challenging, something calculated to bless and help as many people as possible according to their gifting and interest. We need these young men not to drift around and fool with girls’ hearts and play at life, but to assume responsibility, seek out challenges, and strategize to mature as men. Then, when these men are married, as most should be, we need these men to raise families and to avoid the last generation’s mistake. These men need to look into the eyes of their children and say, “Here is a plan for life. Here is a vision. I will not leave you alone in the world. I will answer to God for your soul, and for the way you live your life.” In doing so, these men will give their children a gift. They will give their children direction in life, guidance, a foundation from which to launch. They will ennoble their sons and daughters and lead them into the world with purpose and hope. Then, one day, their children will look back into those same eyes, and call these noble men, virtuous women by their side, blessed.

  • catherineT

    I could not agree more. As I have an 18 year old son who lacks any vision or ability to see into his future at all, I would ask how do we as parents instill this kind of maturity? I am frustrated at the semmingly hit-or-miss bouncing around process, “please let them be 30″ attitude we have. I write this as he sleeps, probably till noon or after, then gets up, eats, watches mindless tv, then takes a shower and goes out to drink and “party.” He is on break from college, but he seems to be in a fog of finding the next pleasure zone. I know most of this is our fault as parents but what can we do NOW?


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