It’s so easy to see it in other people’s lives: the foolish, naïve, senseless choices they make that will inevitably lead them down the path to destruction. But when I was an eighteen-year-old tasting independence for the first time, I couldn’t see past the immediate — and I didn’t want to.
If I could go back and have a heart-to-heart with my younger self, here are the insider’s-tips I would share:
- Think about your future: where do you want to be five years from now? ten? twenty? If you don’t know where you want to be, that’s a sign that you need to think really hard about it. Don’t believe that if you just drift along life will somehow magically sweep you into the perfect spot — it won’t. Yes, God has a destiny for you; and you aren’t going to help yourself get there if you just go about your life mindlessly. Figure out His will for you, or at least be working on it; He will guide you through the process with each step you take. But nothing will happen if you don’t pick up your feet and start walking in the right direction!
- Guard your body. You can lose your chastity in about five seconds, but for the rest of your life you’ll never be the same. Keep careful watch over your body (and your thoughts) as if you’re worth a billion dollars. Don’t let anybody treat you cheaply. If they take your purity without “paying” for it with a wedding ring, they are thieves — alike to those who break in where they don’t belong to steal what isn’t theirs to take. Don’t let them. Your future self — and your future husband — will thank you for it.
- Keep your faith. Without it, you have no anchor for your soul. You will drift aimlessly, without hope and without true joy. Jesus Christ is the only Answer to all of life’s problems, and you have to keep close to Him if you’re going to be successful in life. Keep going to church, no matter how hypocritical you think they all are (probably not as much as you think). Keep reading your Bible — every day. Keep singing in your heart to the Lord, and keep praying. Look for friends — and you’re really going to have to look, because they’re not easy to find — who will assist you in becoming the kind of person you want to be. Who will accompany you in walking the upward path of God’s will for your life? Who will encourage and support your yearning for truth and true meaning? Who will be that kind of friend that won’t let you get away with being any less than what God meant for you to be; who will tell you your faults to your face — and will take you out to coffee afterwards to ease the sting? Stay away from people who aren’t going anywhere, even though you feel sorry for them: “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33) and “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20).
- Listen to your parents. They’re not as lame as you think they are. Forgive them for not listening to you, and for not trying to understand you as much as you would like. It’s just as hard to be a parent of a teen as it is to be a teen. Have grace for their faults, as much as you think they’ve failed you when you really needed them the most. Accept them as they are, the good with the bad; treasure the good, let go of the bad. Don’t be afraid to ask them what they would do in a particular situation, and study their answer. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for their help. If they don’t want to help you, don’t give in to frustration; keep looking for answers, and believe that they have your best at heart (they want you to be more responsible, self-sufficient, etc.). If you have differences of opinion, work them out patiently; you don’t have to agree with everything, but at least give their advice fair consideration.
- Be excited about your life! Treasure this amazing gift that God has given you; it was for a reason that He created you, that He set you in the family you were born into, that He made you a girl and not a boy, that He gave you certain abilities and certain dreams. Don’t be complacent about your life, don’t be lazy, and don’t be careless. You only get one life: live it the best that you can. If you make mistakes, with God’s help you can clean up the mess; but you can’t ever go back and erase what’s been done — it will affect you for the rest of your life. So be wise. And know that God wants what’s best for you. If He hasn’t yet led you to the right man, or the right path of study, etc. consider whether it might not be because He already has you right where he wants you to be for this season of your life, and use it to the best possible advantage.
Though I sometimes find myself wishing I could go back in time and change my history, the truth is, I can’t. I made some really dumb choices, which led to some very painful outcomes. God did help me clean up the mess, for which I stand in awe every day. But you know what? Why stop there — why look back and wish it had been better — why not look forward to how I can apply what I’ve already learned to a future that’s yet to be lived? My journey’s still not over. What waits in store for me?
What about you? What advice would you give your younger self?
What important lessons have you learned that you wish other young people would know?
How can you apply what you’ve learned to impact your future for the better, to be the best you can be, with God’s help and for God’s glory?
I always look forward to reading what you choose to share!