The Ups and Downs of Our Twenties
About the Guest
Peter and Kelli WorrallPeter Worrall was raised by a woman who had just found faith in Jesus and a man who had none. He went as a missionary to Pakistan at age 18, but struggled with his faith at a liberal school upon his return. His twenties were a turbulent time of trying to find who he was created to be and what God's role in his life was to be. During those ten years he completed his degree in education in England, lived for three years in Japan, went back to Pakistan for two years and ultimately landed in Chicago...more
Peter and Kelli Worrall recall their twenties-new jobs, new dreams, and especially, new loves.
The Ups and Downs of Our Twenties
Bob: Is it possible there are some young women today who have set their expectations a little bit too high when it comes to the young men they’re meeting and thinking about as possible husbands one day? Kelli Worrall says she sees that happen all of the time.
Kelli: Some of them have these fathers that they admire so deeply, and they want a guy just like their dad. I have to almost talk to them about: “Okay, your dad has had—he’s got 30 years on these young men that you’re looking at! So, absolutely, look at the track record / there needs to be that foundation, but you can’t put the pressure on a 22-year-old young man to be where your, you know, 50-something-year-old father is in his spiritual journey.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, October 5th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. It would be nice to have the wisdom of your 50s and the vitality of your 20s come together at the same time, but it doesn’t work that way.
We’re going to pass on some of that older wisdom to some of our younger listeners today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I’m just sitting here thinking back to when I was in my 20s. I thought I knew a lot back when I was in my 20s! [Laughter]
Dennis: You know, you think you’ve got life wired together; then you fall in love with a young lady, and you find out what you don’t know. [Laughter]
Dennis: Then you have kids and you really go to school—
Kelli: You really do!
Peter: That is very true.
Dennis: —at that point.
We have a couple of guests with us that I think our listeners are going to really benefit from. They are the authors of a book called 20 Things We’d Tell Our Twenty-Something Selves. Let me just explain who the authors are—Kelli and Peter Worrall join us on FamilyLife Today. Peter, Kelli, welcome.
Peter: Thank you.
Kelli: Thanks for having us.
Dennis: I’m glad you’re here.
Peter: It’s good to be here.
Kelli: Good to be here.
Dennis: They are parents of two. They’ve been married since 1999 and are professors at Moody Bible Institute. You’ve got to tell me the best joke you know about the Moody Bible Institute. It’s a great school, but there has to be some inside joke you’ve heard.
Kelli: “Moody Bridal Institute” is the one that comes to mind. [Laughter]
Bob: Yes; that’s a good one!
Peter: And then: “A ring before spring, or your money back.” That’s what they say to all the seniors.
Dennis: Oh, really! [Laughter]
Dennis: I knew there’d be one.
Peter: Yes; that’s a pretty old joke. I think they say that about most Bible schools.
Kelli: Yes; yes.
Peter: But, yes; the “Moody Bridal Institute” is pretty common.
Dennis: So, Kelli, explain where you were in your 20s.
Dennis: You were single.
Kelli: I was single. I graduated from my undergraduate degree—I went to Cedarville University and graduated—and moved directly to Chicago all by myself—didn’t know a soul in the city, but I got a job there for a Christian publishing company. I arrived in the suburbs of Chicago to edit and write children’s curriculum.
I had my own little apartment and got real involved in a church there. I went to seminary. I was doing kind of all the good 20-something Christian girl things, and thought I had things figured out to some degree.
Dennis: That’s a big town for—
Kelli: It is! It’s a big lonely town—[Laughter]
Dennis: —for a young lady like you.
Kelli: —a big, scary town for a young lady.
Bob: Yes; and I’m just wondering—because we just talked about “Moody Bridal Institute”—
Bob: —you got out of Cedarville without a ring.
Kelli: I did!
Bob: And were you okay with that?
Kelli: I got gipped!! [Laughter]
Bob: Were you frustrated by that?
Kelli: I wanted to be married, certainly. As you go through your 20s, and all of your friends are getting married, and you’re the bridesmaid—always the bridesmaid / never the bride was kind of—I felt that over the years.
I didn’t meet Peter until I was 29. So it was the whole decade of my 20s—I was single, and doing life on my own, and wondering if it would ever happen.
Bob: And, Peter, for you in your 20s?
Peter: Well, I would say that I had a very conflicted view on life, because I had a mother who was a Christian and a father who wasn’t.
My father was very much a rock-‘n-rolling kind of aggressive personality. My mother was a more passive, standard Christian personality. My 20s would fluctuate between these two personas I was picking up. There were times when I would be a little bit wild—and there were times when I would do things that were really not advisable / I would ruin things. And then, there were times when I would try to get it all together and try to follow God fervently. I would be fluctuating back and forth between these two personas that I was developing.
Bob: You traveled the world in your 20s.
Peter: I did a little bit; yes. Actually, my family were travelers. My cousins lived in Africa for a while. One of my cousins actually sailed, single-handedly, across the Atlantic. This was part of the family conversation. When I was 18, I decided that I wanted to be a missionary of some kind, because missionaries in our church had a sort of elevated status. I think I wanted that.
To be honest, it was more about me than God—I think, in retrospect. I think I was really quite arrogant at the time.
Bob: But your faith was an unsettled issue for you during your 20s.
Peter: It was / it was; because I would forget about it for periods of time. I would make decisions which really weren’t in line with Christian thinking for long periods of time. Then I would come back to the truth, and then I would want to give everything. So it was either all-on, or it was all-off. It just kept fluctuating back and forth, no matter where I was.
Dennis: So I want you both to comment on this: “How were your lives both very similar to 20-somethings today?”
Dennis: And “How were your lives really different than those who are in their 20s today?”
Peter: Yes; one of the things that has happened is—that people in their 20s, more and more, are getting access to things. People in their 20s—30/40 years ago—they would have access to the family business / they would have access to the local town.
I had access to all kinds of possibilities—they’ve only really increased. We’ve got a lot of people going on short-term missions now all over the world. After I went to Pakistan in my 20s, I actually went to Japan after that for three years. I even went to Afghanistan for a month, and then I went back to Pakistan for two years.
So, for me, it was a series of mission trips for all the wrong reasons. People are doing that even now on shorter, more consumer-oriented mission trips. They go in; they spend some time in a country; they paint a church; then they get really frustrated if they don’t have a lot of play time at the end of it in that exciting country. And then they come home.
So now, there’s more and more access. Another thing would be alienation—that, actually, people are more alienated from each other. We have our little devices, where we connect with each other; but the relationships are with a million people, and they’re an inch deep. That’s different than when I was young, for sure.
Dennis: What about you, Kelli?
Kelli: I think I wanted the same things that 20-somethings nowadays want.
I think I wanted intimacy, I wanted relationships, and I wanted to be of significance—to do things that mattered. I think those core desires are still the same, perhaps, of 20-somethings. But I think we, perhaps, like Peter is saying, go about it different ways now—the 20-somethings we see coming through—just because the possibilities are endless for them.
When I was in my 20s, the internet was just being unveiled. I really didn’t have access to all of that—so that was very different.
Bob: The two of you met at the end of your decade of the 20s.
Kelli: We did.
Bob: For young people today, the average age that people are getting married—the average young man is 29 / the young woman is 27 or 28.
Kelli: Yes; yes.
Bob: In your day, that was kind of on the older end of the spectrum.
Kelli: Yes; yes.
Bob: Tell us about how you met and how the two of you came to be.
Kelli: Well, we met at Moody Bible Institute in the fall of 1998.
I arrived on campus, in my faculty position, to teach in the Communications Department at the very same time that Peter came from Pakistan to go to the graduate school. It was one Friday, at lunchtime, in September—so it was about a month into the school year. An older gentleman, who was a new faculty member as well, recognized me from some orientation sessions. He was a graduate school professor—Dr. Green. He came over and he said: “You know, I’m eating with a bunch of my graduate school students. Would you like me to introduce you?” I said, “Yes, this sounds great!”
He introduced me to a whole table of graduate school students, and Peter was one of them. In the middle of lunch, I overheard Peter tell some other students that Minneapolis, Minnesota, was his favorite city in the United States. That’s where I grew up. I was curious why this Brit loved Minneapolis. So I asked him, and that’s how we got to talking. The funny thing is—I went back to my office and, later that afternoon, I wrote in my journal that I thought I had just met the man I was going to spend the rest of my life with.
Dennis: No way!!
Kelli: I did! Crazy—I know!
Bob: Had you done that before?
Kelli: No! [Laughter]
Bob: Only time.
Kelli: Only time.
Bob: And what was it about Peter?
Kelli: I don’t know! The whole afternoon was just—I sensed God’s presence. I put it down to that. I don’t know how else to explain it. I just think—there was something.
Bob: But it didn’t just rocket off into a relationship right away; did it?
Kelli: No; it didn’t / it didn’t.
Bob: How long from that first meeting until you were starting to see one another regularly?
Kelli: Well, we ran into each other at mission conferences, and I must admit I started eating in that cafeteria more often. [Laughter] So we would have dinner together occasionally and talk.
Dennis: Hold it! Hold it! Hold it!
Dennis: Did you flirt?
Kelli: Probably. [Laughter]
Peter: I can’t say I really noticed. [Laughter] We just had really good conversations. From my perspective, it was the conversations we had on the walk—where I walked her to the train station—that began to really interest me in who she was—
—because she was a very thoughtful, intelligent Christian woman, who wasn’t afraid to put her best self forward. She wasn’t trying to be an image of something that I think I would like—there was a little of that—but it was mostly a genuine, heartfelt conversation about the things she loved / about the thoughts she was having. It’s the depth of those thoughts that set her apart from anybody else.
Dennis: So, let’s go back to the theme of your book. What are you observing today about 20-somethings who are dating? What are you seeing in them today that you kind of go, “Wow!”
Peter: Yes; there’s a lot of consumerism, because you even see Christians who develop their checklist. I do think we should be wise, biblically, and look at what the Bible lays out as good in somebody that we’re going to partner with—as the Bible talks about “yoking” / being tied together with someone. It’s good to be with someone who’s in an equal sort of footing. Where that crosses a line is where it gets so that I become a consumer—where, actually, it’s about me.
I’m measuring to see if I’ve got the best product from the line here: “When this one gets a little bit worn out, I think I’m going to trade it in for a better model,” / “When this one gets a little bit so it doesn’t satisfy what I’m looking for on my list for my own self…”
That misses the point entirely, because I think marriage and dating are about the service of God: “What work, what idea, what life has God called me to? Is this the best way for me to fulfill that calling?”
And, with Kelli, what I found was that the word, “ally,” started to apply. I didn’t really think of relationships as an alliance. Unfortunately, I dated very badly in my 20s; but when it got to Kelli, it was a very different dating relationship, where it was pulling for the kingdom of God. I had met somebody who could be my ally, and it scared the living daylights out of me; because I knew we weren’t playing at this anymore.
Dennis: I want to get to Kelli’s answer to the question about what she’s seeing in 20-somethings today as they date, but I know Bob’s got an illustration of what you experienced that really is perfect. You’re going to nod your heads on this one.
Bob: It’s something I heard Pastor Tommy Nelson, from Denton Bible Church, say years ago—he said: “My advice to singles has always been, ‘Your job, when you’re single, is to run as hard and as fast toward Jesus as you can.’
Bob: He said, “’Now, in the process of running, if you see somebody out of the corner of your eye, running in the same direction, at the same speed, take a second look.’”
Bob: I’ve always thought that was great advice.
Kelli: I like that.
Peter: That’s very good.
Bob: You do want same speed / same direction—
Kelli: Yes; yes.
Bob: —not just, “Can they check the box, ‘Christian’?”
Peter: Yes; that’s what we see so much of!
Bob: But two people who really are on the same path / at the same level of spiritual interest—that’s eventually what you began to realize about Kelli—is that you guys were on the same path, with the same agenda for life.
Peter: We have become a good team together.
I mean, part of that is the book that we’re talking about today in that this is something we wrote together. It seems like an allied activity. Also, the way we do ministry in the church / the way we do ministry at Moody—there are so many ways that, over the years, that initial sense of alliance has actually spun out more and more into ministry.
Dennis: I want to just take a second and speak to both the parents of singles and singles, right here. The Scripture warns against being unequally yoked. And we generally think of that as being a believer marrying an unbeliever.
Dennis: And I think that’s how that passage is probably best applied; however, if you’ve got someone who is running toward a different destination—who is not running after Christ—and you’re trying to pursue him, you need to go slowly.
Bob: Or, if you’ve got somebody who’s just jogging instead of running.
Dennis: —playing church.
Bob: Yes, somebody’s who is just kind of along for the ride / walking every now and then.
Dennis: Well, they may be trolling, Bob—trying to get a spouse—and not all that serious about their own faith in Jesus Christ. I want to tell you something—as a single person or as a parent of a single—you’ve got to pull back and evaluate: “Are you, first of all, headed toward the right destination?”
Peter: Yes; absolutely.
Dennis: Then, secondly, where are they headed?
Dennis: Then, you shouldn’t just ask, “Where are they today?” but “What’s the track record?”
Kelli: Yes; yes.
Dennis: Look and see where they’ve been: “Is this a pursuit that has a trail to it?”
Bob: We’re talking to Kelli and Peter Worrall, who have written a book called 20 Things We’d Tell Our Twenty-Something Selves.
Kelli, how would you answer Dennis’ question?
Kelli: A couple of different things come to mind—kind of two ends of the spectrum. I think, in our environment—you know, at Moody Bible Institute—I think we can see the desperation to get married by the time you graduate and the “ring by spring.” We joke about it, but it’s a very real thing that a lot of these students feel. I think some of them we see—wanting to get married or starting to talk about marriage very, very quickly, when it’s still based on an emotional—
—you know: “You make me feel good about myself. I like that. That feels great! I want more of that.” They’re making decisions and having conversations about marriage way too soon, based on that emotional high that you get in the infatuation stage.
But then, I also see something on the other end of the spectrum, particularly with the young women, where they look at the guys around them and they maybe even, oddly enough, put too high of a standard on them. Some of them have these fathers that they admire so deeply, and they want a guy just like their dad. I have to almost talk to them about: “Okay; your dad has had—he’s got—30 years on these young men that you’re looking at!” So, absolutely, like you were saying, Dennis, look at the track record—there needs to be that foundation—but you can’t put the pressure on a 22-year-old young man to be where your, you know, 50-something-year-old father is in his spiritual journey.
Dennis: —or a 28-year-old young man.
Dennis: He’s still in the process of hammering out what it means!
Kelli: Yes, but is he teachable? I think being teachable is so key.
Kelli: Because you can see that in the 22-year-old, and you need that.
Dennis: Yes; and teachability is really humility—
Dennis: —which is the basis of truly being a Christ-follower.
Dennis: Peter, Kelli’s already shared where she was in this relationship. She’d already checked it off / written it down in her journal! [Laughter]
Dennis: It was signed, sealed, and delivered.
Peter: I had come to Bible school. This was one of those times when I was leaving the whole idea of women behind.
Bob: Fully consecrated.
Peter: Fully set apart / part of the celibate monk society. [Laughter]
Bob: “No turning back.”
Peter: “No turning back”; that’s right!
Dennis: Could you sing that, Bob? [Laughter]
Bob: [singing] “The world behind me, the cross before me”; right?
Bob: I’m with ya! [Laughter]
Peter: [singing] “No girl beside me, the cross before me!”
Dennis: There’s a little bit of Moody coming out again! I can see it right there! [Laughter]
Peter: So I was very much concentrated on wanting to find God. I enjoyed the relationship—and I would say I was attracted—but I didn’t want it to be a distraction.
So when it became really apparent that we had sort of started to date, I decided to go around to Kelli’s house and tell her that it was all over; because I needed to focus on Jesus.
Bob: Now, hang on! Let me just say to young women: “If the guy says, ‘It’s become apparent that we’ve sort of started to date,’ that should be a red flag!”
Kelli: [Laughing] Right?
Bob: He didn’t realize that was what was going on. But your times together had become regular, and it was starting to get obvious to both of you that there were feelings there.
Peter: —and the men on my floor.
Dennis: And how old were you at this point?
Peter: Twenty-eight / I was 28.
Dennis: So you should have known better. [Laughter]
Kelli: Thank you!
Peter: I should have known better, and Kelli would affirm that wholeheartedly. [Laughter]
Bob: You went to tell her, “It’s all over.”
Peter: I did!
Kelli: Before Christmas.
Peter: And then, just before Christmas break—great Christmas present from her prospective boyfriend.
Dennis: That makes 100 percent sense.
Peter: It was awful!
Dennis: Of course! You found the right one; why should this get serious?
Peter: And, actually, Kelli gave it all up to God.
What she did was—she wrote my name on a piece of paper; and, then, because she’s very symbolic, she burned it and put it in a glass. She actually burned my name and left it all with God—and left it all behind.
Kelli: I did.
Peter: And then we moved forward.
Dennis: No, no, no! You went over to her house and saw the burn pile.
Kelli: The ashes!
Peter: I thought, “Oh, my goodness!”
Dennis: She pointed at the burn pile—
Kelli: I did!
Dennis: —and said, “That’s you!”
Peter: She did / she did. [Laughter]
Dennis: What did you think at that point?
Peter: Oh, I thought, “Oh, my goodness, what a fool!” [Laughter] Anyway, I was a fool. What I realized is that I had told God the way it was going to be in my service of Him. I had said, “God, I am following You, and it’s going to be this way.” And God was bringing a woman into my life, who was going to be my partner for the rest of my life. I was saying: “No; no God, because I’m going to serve You this way. It doesn’t involve this woman.”
So Kelli and I talked, and we decided to pray about it. We prayed about it for a month. At the end of that month, I had a very different perspective of, “Maybe I could serve God and be an ally with a woman, and we could serve God together.”
Bob: And you’d had that perspective all along; hadn’t you?
Kelli: I knew it all along. [Laughter]
Dennis: And the Apostle Paul knew it all along too. He’s the one who said, “It is better to marry than to burn.” [Laughter]
Peter: —“with passion”; yes.
Kelli: That could be our theme verse! [Laughter]
Peter: Not necessarily in a bottle, though. [Laughter]
Dennis: I think what singles need to hear us saying here is: “Recalibrate or take an inventory of: “What is the direction you’re running in? What’s your destination?”
Dennis: “Is it Jesus Christ?”
Dennis: “Or is it success / is it the trappings of the world? It can even be the opposite sex.”
Peter: Yes, yes.
Dennis: “We find fresh things to make idols out of every day.”
What you two are really challenging, I think, singles to do, at this point, is—really take that inventory and get right with their relationship with Christ. It’s still not going to be easy.
Kelli: That’s right.
Dennis: It’s still going to be very difficult; but in the process of running toward Christ, look to your left—
Dennis: —look to your right, and see who God has also brought your way, who’s running in that same direction.
Bob: Well; and I had a pastor friend of mine share with me one time—he said that he had proposed to his wife using the verse from Psalms that says, “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His Name together.”
Kelli: Oh, that’s lovely!
Bob: I thought, “That’s not what I was thinking!
Bob: Even though I was a Christian / even though Mary Ann and I wanted our marriage to glorify God, I wasn’t thinking this marriage should really be all about God and His purposes. It was more about, “I’d like a companion as I continue to pursue God.”
Dennis: And how old were you at that time?
Bob: I was 23 / she was 25 when we got married.
Bob: And it was years later that I said: “Oh, oh!
Bob: “God at the center of this doesn’t just mean that, when we don’t know where to go, we come back to the center.”
Peter: Yes; that’s key.
Bob: “It means that our lives are oriented around Him and His purposes.”
Dennis: And there’s some application here for married people as well—
Dennis: “Are you both running in the same direction?”
Peter: That’s important.
Dennis: And, “If you’re not, I’d encourage you to come to the Weekend to Remember® and have a spiritual wheel alignment for your marriage and your family. Get some training in that.”
If you know a single who needs a great read, get this book by Kelli and Peter: 20 Things We’d Tell Our Twenty-Something Selves—a lot of great advice from a couple of Moody professors who know a little bit about that same subject because of their own experiences.
Bob: And in fact, online at your website, you guys have got a Bible study that goes along with the book.
Kelli: We do.
Bob: So this would be a great opportunity for you—maybe with some other 20-somethings—to get together, get the book, and go through these 20 things together. Take advantage of the wisdom of a couple that has a few more years under their belt than you have.
We’ve got copies of the book, 20 Things We’d Tell Our Twenty-Something Selves. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to find out more about how to get a copy of the book—
—order from us online if you’d like. There’s also a link to Peter and Kelli’s website if you’d like to download the study guide that goes along with it. Once again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. If you’d prefer to order by phone, call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue talking about things we learn later in life that we sometimes wish we’d known back in our 20s. Peter and Kelli Worrall will be with us again. I hope you can be here as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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