Thriving in Your 20s: Jared and Becky Wilson
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself? Jared and Becky Wilson know what they'd tell themselves in their 20s—and they literally wrote the book about it. Grab smart thoughts and wise stories for a regret-free decade.
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Jared and Becky Wilson know what advice they’d give themselves in their 20s. They literally wrote the book. Grab smart thoughts for a regret-free decade.
Thriving in Your 20s: Jared and Becky Wilson
Becky: My heart is broken for all the ways that even people that I love and admire, and respect are interacting with others -in ways that just come across as so arrogant and so hurtful. So, the point I'm trying to make is you might be exactly right in what you're saying, but if you're saying it in such a way that is offensive and hurtful and arrogant and disrespectful, no one who needs to hear it will register.
Shelby: Somewhat anxious, always authentic. This is Real Life Loading…
I'm your host, Shelby Abbott, and when you're in your twenties, you need to Go Outside, well, not just that, but a ton of other stuff too. Today I'm talking with a wife and husband who not only work with people in their twenties, but they decided to write a book about a bunch of stuff they wish they had done in their twenties.
Jared and Becky Wilson co-wrote a fun, easy to read, gospel-centered book called Go Outside: …And 19 Other Keys to Thriving in Your 20s. It's a short book filled with multiple tips and pieces of advice for navigating life. I wanted to talk through a handful of them with the Wilsons. I got to be honest, I wish I'd known a ton of this stuff when I was young like you. I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Jared and Becky Wilson.
In light of, you know, thinking about the twenties, what's one thing that you really liked about life when you were in your twenties other than feeling a lot better, aches and pains wise and maybe having more, more energy?
Jared: I'll answer to say, yes, you kind of put your finger on it. I had so much more energy than I do now. Which is strange because one of my chapters is about using the energy that you have while you have it.
Shelby: Yes, I love that.
Jared: Because yes, I was so lazy in my twenties.
Shelby: So was I, oh my gosh.
Jared: At 47 years of age, I have like four jobs. And I probably work too much now. I just think, man, if I had spread this out actually over the last 20 some years, I'd probably--
Shelby:, Can you would imagine how much we could have gotten done, yes?
Jared: And I'd have fewer of those aches and pains probably than I--
Shelby: Yes maybe. Becky, would you say what would you say, similar or different?
Becky: Yes, for me, I'm one of four girls. I have three sisters. I'm actually the second, so I have two younger than me. But by the grace of God, I was the last one living in my parents' home with them. The two youngest had gone away to college. The oldest was married and I was going to college nearby. So I thought, gosh, free room and board.
Shelby: Yes, why not? Sure.
Becky: And it was actually a really sweet time of growth within my relationship with both of my parents. We had always been a really close family. But it was just a sweet time to sort of get to know them as people instead of just as my mom and dad. And sort of understanding some of the struggles they had had at this same phase of life I'm in right now, you know?
Shelby: Mm-hmm, yes. I love that.
Becky: So that was really sweet.
Shelby: Yes, that's really cool. Okay, so that's one thing you liked. What's one thing that you didn't like about being in your twenties as you look back?
Jared: Being broke. [Laughter] Not having any money.
Shelby: That is a very, very good answer, because I think every young person goes, oh yeah, that's definitely it.
Becky: Know how that feels.
Shelby: Yes, I remember thinking constantly, what can I do to fill my stomach for the least amount of money right now? That's why Ramen is so awesome.
Jared: Yes. We ate a lot of beans and rice. If we ate out, you know, it was Taco Bell and things like that.
Shelby: Oh yes and we've talked about Taco Bell on this podcast quite a bit actually.
I was just talking about this with my neighbors the other day. She used to say that she loved going to Olive Garden when she was younger. And I was like, I loved Olive Garden too, because you just pay for a salad and then you get free breadsticks, and you keep getting breadsticks over and over and over again. And now here I am in my forties with a gluten intolerance, so I can't do that anymore. That's another thing about getting old.
Okay, so thanks for being honest. I love that you guys are just frankly, “This is what it is.”
I have several questions that I'll alternate back and forth between you guys, because that's what you did in the book. Let's start with you, Becky. Why is developing habits of spiritual disciplines something that should start earlier rather than when you have more time to do so in the future?
Becky: Two things about that. First of all, the idea of having more time as you get older is just a myth. It's not going to happen. I know a lot of students think, well man, when I don't have to read and study for my classes, when I don't have finals, when I don't have all these other things, for sure I'm going to have more free time to do what I want to do. That’s, that's just not true, at least for the majority of us. You'll have a job, you may have children, you might have a spouse, hopefully you'll be engaged in your church and have responsibilities there. Responsibility does not go away as you get older, it just changes.
If you don't develop habits of incorporating Scripture, incorporating prayer, incorporating time with the Lord into your schedule now, you'll never have that leisure time to do it later. It's just like any discipline in life, right? You're not going to wake up when you're 45 and go, okay, I'm going to get fit today. [Laughter] It doesn't work that way.
Shelby: It does not. You're correct.
Becky: Yes, it does not. You start, when you're young, you develop disciplines. You train your body in the same way you have to train your mind. You have to train your lifestyle to incorporate these things in, in a healthy way. If you do that early, it's so much easier to just maintain those habits rather than try to force them into a busy life later.
Shelby: Okay. So there's another section in the book that talks about the importance of finding a mentor and asking good questions to the older generations so that you can learn from people who have actually gone ahead of you. So I want to ask you both some questions so that people can learn from you. To start with, what was the most difficult thing about early married life?
Becky: Okay, that's a good question. It's for us, neither of us had ever lived outside of our parents' home, so we were both coming directly from that scenario. We, as Jared mentioned before, were just broke. I mean, he was working three jobs. I was working two, still were barely making ends meet, so we didn't really even get to see each other that much.
I would say through the choices we made, we made our early married life very, very difficult just logistically, you know. We found the most inexpensive apartment that we could, that would still be within the vicinity of all the places we both worked, but it was a little ways out because that's what we had to do to find one that was affordable.
Becky: So, our commutes were longer than they should have been. Our time away from home was longer than it should have been. We were just kind of exhausted all the time. Again, those were choices we made. We should have planned better. We should have certainly been more financially responsible in the months leading up to our marriage. We just were young and in love and didn't think about those things.
Shelby: Right. Yes. Did you find like you were kind of two ships passing in the night? Is that kind of what you mean? Not being able to connect the way want.
Becky: A little bit, yes. That's exactly right. Or it would be, you know, we knew what time we would both finally be home, but by then one of the other of us was exhausted.
So, it was really hard and it was mostly our own fault, honestly.
Shelby: Okay. Would you agree with that, Jared? Would you say that was probably the hardest thing for you as well?
Jared: Yes. What happens is you bring into marriage all of the way that you have been raised as the expectation of what is normal. When that doesn't quite match the other person's normal, you have two different normals meeting and expecting that your normal is the normal. This is true of just about every marriage. It's not just true of ours.
So many of the basis of conflict and disappointment and all of that is unmet expectations. You go in thinking this is how things are going to be, and really, it's a self-centered sort of vision of how this thing is supposed to make me happy and complete me and satisfy me. And the other person may be thinking that as well.
Shelby: Right. Yes.
Jared: When you're both sort of set that way, or even just one person. When I'm set that way, it just toxifies whatever meaningful relationship you could have. And this was to a large extent, exacerbated, or at least further detoxified, at least in the second year of our marriage and beyond with my secret life of looking at porn as well. So, when you have that poisonous ingredient in the mix, it really messes things up. It will really ruin your life.
Shelby: Yes. So obviously these are difficult problems. Early on in your marriage, how did God redeem that, Becky? Do you feel like, uh, there's a specific time or was it gradual?
Becky: I think it was gradual and certainly there were times, when I was younger that I asked him to stop and even probably begged was the right word, begged him to stop.
And he would for a little while and then come back around to it. That was a pretty perpetual cycle.
But at any given time, I could have said, “If you don't stop, I'm leaving.” And I think at that point he would've stopped, and I just wasn't strong enough and wasn't secure enough in my own faith to know that I had the right to do that. And I think I probably could have ended a whole lot sooner if I had done that. [I] just didn't have the vocabulary, didn't have the security, didn't have the groundedness in my faith.
So going back to your original question to me, why do we get grounded in the Scripture early in life?
Shelby: There you go.
Becky: So that when you're met with these kinds of things, you have the answer. It's all there.
Shelby: Yes, really great. Would you say it was similar for you, Jared? Was there like, or was there a specific point where you were like, this has to stop?
Jared: Well, you're always thinking that when you know, this kind of sin and it's not the only kind, but when you're that deep in those things, it's really hard to see a way out and it becomes almost sort of a self-fulfilling cycle as well. And what it was for me, I mean, it was kind of playing the game of I'll pretend I'll do better, or I'll promise to do better and real, and in a sense mean it.
Shelby: But there's a sincerity there. Yes, sure.
Jared: Yes, yes. I didn't want to be that person, I guess is what I'm trying to say. But I didn't want to be that person as much as I did want to be that person, right? It's almost like, you know, this warring thing inside. I've done a lot of kind of, you know, soul searching since then. I mean over two decades now, you know, free of that.
Shelby: Wow, that's awesome.
Jared: But still kind of look back and go, what was it I was trying to medicate?
What was it that I was trying to fix inside, or comfort myself or soothe myself that I should have been going to the gospel for soothing and comfort?
What it took for me to kind of, oh, like snap to attention and the light bulb come on is the day where Becky basically said, “I don't want to be married to you anymore.”
Suddenly the cost of this is now greater than I wanted to pay. I don't know who said it, but basically “people don't change until the pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same.”
Jared: Now I'm seeing the pain of staying the same was greater than the whatever I needed to do to actually finally change. Of course, things weren't in that moment when I kind of snapped to attention. It was another year or so after that of walking in purity, experiencing a refreshing of the gospel in a way that I had never experienced before.
The Lord, for all of my sin, the Lord used that bottoming out for me to kind of wake me up to the miracle of grace, even for dirty Christians. Up to that point, I thought the good news was just for lost people. And it was in the midst of that, of like, my marriage is broken, my life is broken, my life is a mess. I literally want to take my own life. I'm dealing with suicidal thoughts. I'm depressed.
Jared: And yet I'm just kind of clinging to this Jesus stuff, you know, just kind of by the skin of my teeth and thinking, “This has to be true. This has to be real. Because I don't have any other options and I have no other hope now.”
What the Lord did in my life and then eventually in both of our lives through that experience, one of the reasons we wrote the book is to try to help people to avoid having to go through that brokenness.
Shelby: Sure. Yes, don't make our mistakes.
Jared: Exactly and go through that mess. We have huge regrets, but we also see how the Lord used it to turn ashes into beauty. The way that the Lord actually helps us appreciate grace more now because of that experience. We wouldn't be where we are today, if that hadn't have happened. At the same time if we could go back, we wouldn't have done it that way. If that hopefully that doesn't sound like a contradiction, right? I have regrets, but I'm still grateful.
Shelby: Yes. They can be both true at the same time. Yes, go ahead Becky.
Becky: I've even told people, and this is going to sound really, really weird, and so be it, but again, like Jared said, if we could go back, certainly we would just completely avoid the entire situation.
But I've often told people, and I believe this is true, that had I not gone through that, I think I would've lived most of my life with Jared as my functional savior. I really do.
Shelby: Wow, yes.
Becky: If he had been the perfect model husband, I wouldn't have clung to Christ the way that I do now. And so again, don't wish that on anybody. Just hate that I had to go through it. But the Lord uses everything; He doesn't waste a thing.
Shelby: Yes, that's true. I think about Genesis 50 a lot, all of that horrible stuff that happens to Joseph and it ends up saving the entire nation. It's like, why did all that, why did that happen? And then it's like, what people intended for evil, God intended for good. He could still work with the evil things.
That's one of the things I've learned over time is that God doesn't call those evil things, those sinful things, good things. In fact, he hates them more than I do. Like I was abused young, and I hate that. And God looks at that and he goes, oh, I hate that more than you do Shelby, but I could still use that right now as a means of grace in other people's lives.
And so, I found that as I've talked about my abuse, there have been so many - in particular college women - who come up and talk to me and say, “Hey, I was sexually assaulted as well and thank you so much for saying that. It's so good to just hear it get out and the open.” I found that tons of conversations that I've had with people has been as a result of the fact that I was honest about what happened to me when I was a kid. And I'm like, I don't understand. I don't want for this to have happened to me at all, but it did, and God is still using it.
And I can hate it and also be thankful for it at the same time. Similar to what you were saying, Jared, right? Well, did you want to say something? Go ahead.
Jared: I was just going to say, you bring anything into the light, you can see how the Lord redeems these things. The problem is so often we're distrustful that the Lord can use our stories. We think we're, you know, that there's a sense of shame in the darkness of, if people know this about me, it changes the relationship; they'll look at me differently; I can't risk people's judgment; all of those sorts of things.
And that's true of sins we commit and of course it's true of the hurts that we carry when sins are committed against us and when we're totally innocent of things. We can still just carry a shame. And It doesn't mean that we blast every dirty detail of everything we've ever been through or experience to everyone.
Shelby: There’s a sense of discernment there.
Jared: Right, there's a sense of discernment there. But at the same time, when we have those who care about us and love us, or when we're seeking to minister to others who may be hurting and hiding in shame. To bring things into the light means that, you know, we bring them into the cause of Christ and into the glory of Jesus. If there's one thing, we learned just from reading through the Gospels to see how often Jesus rushed to those who held deep secrets and secret shames and were struggling under hurts and even abuse and exploitation. The heart of Jesus is to minister grace in the midst of that pain, and we can in a way, make much of Him when we do the same.
Shelby: We'll get back to my time with Jared and Becky in just a second, but now it's time for a Shelby Sidebar.
In the summertime, many states in North America experience this loud like song almost of an insect known as the cicada. Now, these bugs generate like a really like blaring, rattling type sound that echoes through the trees and kind of drenches the summer evenings with natural white noise. That description may seem bizarre, but the insects music is actually quite beautiful.
Cicadas are really interesting creatures. Not only do they make a lot of noise, but they also shed their exoskeleton just before emerging to their adult size. Now, if you look closely in the warmer months, exoskeletons from cicadas can be spotted all over plants and trees. They look like these detailed, like kind of translucent exterior molding of the bug itself, just not with the actual bug inside. The visual is actually quite fascinating, and if you think about it, not all that unfamiliar.
When a person becomes a Christian, like a cicada, they shed off their old self. Not literally, of course, but spiritually. In the book of Ephesians, Paul speaks metaphorically about the sinful nature as something old that must be replaced by the new. We are to put off the old self and put on the new self in a way that trades the earthly nature of our former self for the heavenly one of our new self. Our heart of stone is replaced with the heart of flesh as a gift of His grace, and it can't be undone.
So as new creatures we're not really characterized by sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil, and greed, and a bunch of other like sinful things, no, because that was the old nature that's been stripped away by the saving work of Jesus on the cross. As new creatures, we're now clothed in righteousness. We're reflecting the nature of our Savior. We're compassionate and kind and humble and gentle and patient. The old is gone, the new has come. If we're in Christ, we don't need to live like our old cicada shell. Because we've left that old self behind. It's no longer a part of us. We're a new creature in Christ. A new creation made possible by the gracious gift of God's sacrifice on our behalf.
This has been a Shelby Sidebar. Now back to my time with Jared and Becky Wilson.
Okay. Becky, I want to, I wanted to say this to you. One of the most profound statements in your guys’ book, you said, “Seek to win more hearts than arguments.” I loved, loved, loved that. Why is that so important now more than ever?
Becky: Oh man. Have you been on Twitter lately?
Shelby: I technically still am on Twitter, but I just scroll to like, look at the news really quick and then I hop off, because it just causes me anxiety.
Becky: Right, yes, oh that's the worst. Yes. So, I mean, that statement - I look around these days and, and more often than not exactly what you said, I just, my heart is broken for all the ways that even people that I love and admire, and respect are interacting with others in ways that just come across as so arrogant and so hurtful, and I just don't understand it. I don't understand. Why they think it's okay. I don't understand how they think it's helpful.
There's just really no place for that in Christian interaction. The point I'm trying to make is, you might be exactly right in what you're saying, but if you're saying it in such a way that is offensive and hurtful and arrogant and disrespectful, no one who needs to hear it will register. They just won't. They'll tune you out. Actually, the best thing they could do is tune you out. Probably what they'll do is say, “You're wrong and these are all the reasons why I believe it.” And they'll have some really valid points.
So the world is broken for sure. There are lots of battles that we should be fighting as Christians. We should be standing up for things. We should be standing against things. We need to do it in a way that is loving. Truth without love is just a loud symbol. You have to tell the truth in a way that Jesus would be respected, that He would look like the Jesus that He is, which is someone who loves sinners.
Becky: I think it's weird to me that in this day and age we tend to get more angry with sinners for sinning, than we do with Christians for misrepresenting the gospel in sinful ways.
Shelby: There you go, “Boom.” I just agree with that.
Becky: You know, they need to know the truth, but until they do, we can't just scream at, yell at, and yell at them in ways that don't represent Christ well. It's not going to be effective ever.
Shelby: Yes, that's really well said. I totally, totally agree with that. And I felt like that was one of the most important things that I think someone could learn from your guys' book is if I win more hearts than arguments, that means I could lose an argument.
But if you win a heart in the process, you've been able to connect with someone on a much deeper level than you would ever be able to do it in an argument. So like, yes, I totally agree with you.
One of the things that you guys talk about in the book, you even kind of poke fun at the terminology is this term gospel centrality. What actually is gospel centrality? Because I've heard it 6.8 billion times in the last few years.
Jared: [Laughter] Oh man. Now you're in my bread and butter here, brother. Because yes, my entire ministry is built around trying to communicate what the substance of this gospel centered stuff is. What I do with my students and what I do with our Ministry Residents at Liberty Baptist Church is: I give them basically three kinds of implications of gospel centrality. The first one, the first sort of tenet or implication of gospel centrality is that the whole Bible is about Jesus from Genesis to Revelation. The whole thing is about Him.
Now, thankfully there are a lot of folks who when they hear that go well, duh, who else would it be about? But there's a lot of us who grew up in churches where we were not taught that. Then the Old Testament, God's mad, and in the New Testament, God's nice. It was, you know, Jesus shows up in Matthew and maybe He's there and like, you know, Isaiah 53, in Psalm 22 or something like that.
But the idea that the entire Old Testament would be about Jesus, as well as the New Testament, was a, a foreign concept to me. Yet we see through the New Testament lens from Jesus Himself, right? You search these Scriptures diligently thinking that in them you find life, and yet it is they that testify about Me or the book of Hebrews giving us kind of the Christ-centered lens to see the old covenant and so on and so forth.
So that's the first thing. The whole Bible's about Jesus. So when you're doing your quiet time, when you're reading and studying your Bible, you need to make sure that you look, what does this say about Jesus? Where is Jesus in this text? Even if His name is not mentioned? What are the implications here that that help me love Jesus more and help me see Jesus better?
The second thing is people change by grace, not by law, which is a little more controversial even today.
Jared: The very idea that the gospel is not just the grounds for my justification, but also the power for my sanctification as well. Like I said earlier, I grew up thinking the gospel is just for lost people, and then once you move on, you move on to other things or deeper things. The idea that the gospel would be for Christians was a completely foreign concept to me.
But we see in 1 Corinthians 15, we see in 2 Corinthians 3 and elsewhere Titus 2, that the power for our becoming more like Jesus is not based on our performance. It's based in what Christ has done for us on the cross and out of the tomb.
So, the good news of grace is power for our transformation. And you know, the way we teach and preach and counsel and disciple, we know that we're going contrary to gospel centrality if we're trying to leverage guilt, shame, even commandments, fear, those sorts of things to get people to change. You can get people to change their behavior. If you use that stuff, you know well enough. But at the heart level, the inside out transformation, the Fruit of the Spirit level transformation, that stuff only comes about through beholding the glory of Jesus in the Gospel.
Shelby: So that's great.
Jared: Then the third implication is that my ultimate validation is not based on my performance, but based on Christ's finished work.
If I’m trying to find my ultimate validation in something that I'm doing in my production levels, in my level of spirituality, and my spiritual feelings, how great that worship service felt or whatever, I'm always going to be struggling. I'm always going to be feeling at a loss. My ultimate validation has to come from Christ himself.
So I can know because of the gospel, that when I wake up in the morning, God isn't saying, “All right, impress me today.” You know, let Me see what you got, and I'll let you know if I give you my seal of approval. And then at the end of the day, no matter how the day's gone, if I've really screwed up even, or if I've done even really well, either way, when I, you know, go to bed at night, the Lord's not saying, “I thought you were better.
Maybe we'll try again tomorrow.” You know?
Jared: But he's smiling at me when I wake up and when I lay down because of Jesus. Not because of me, but because of Jesus. And I just find that so helpful for the Christian life. And it frees me up not to disobey and be lazy, but it actually frees me up. It gives me energy to obey and to love and to serve because now I know I've got the fuel of the gospel in my spiritual, you know, gas tank.
Shelby: There is not a day you wake up when God says to you, “Impress me.” Isn't that different from any other relationship or experience you go through in life because of the gospel?
If you're a Christian, because of Jesus, you already have the complete and perfect approval of God and He doesn't want you to work for His acceptance. There's nothing else in the universe that compares to that.
So grateful for my time today with Jared Wilson and Becky Wilson. So much wisdom there. I really encourage you to check out their book, Go Outside [subtitle: ...And 19 Other Keys to Thriving in Your 20s], because I think it'll give you some great tracks to run on as you're in your twenties and trying to figure stuff out.
If you liked this episode of Real Life Loading… or thought it was helpful, I'd love for you to share today's podcast with a friend and wherever you get your podcast, it can really advance what we're doing with Real Life Loading, if you'd rate and review us. It's surely easy to find us on our social channels. Just search for Real Life Loading, or look for our link tree in the show notes.
I want to thank everyone who's on the Real Life Loading team Josh, Kaytlynn, Jarrett, Chloe, and Bruce. I'm Shelby Abbott. I'll see you back next time on Real Life Loading.
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