I belong to a facebook group called Ministry Chick, which is specifically designed for women in ministry. In the short time I have been a part of that group, it has been refreshing to see women come together in support of one another. Today a young woman posted a question that really got me thinking.
Her question was “If you could go back and tell your 22 year old self anything, what would it be?”
Goodness! My 67-year-old self would have plenty to say. But here are the top 10 things in no particular order, except the first one, that I would tell my 22-year-old self.
Put your faith in God. Through the good times and the bad times your faith can sustain you. During your lifetime your faith will be tested. No if, ands, and buts. Seeking God, growing your faith, and spending time in his word; these will never come back void. Do not be afraid to express your doubts and ask your questions when you have them—and you will. God doesn’t cast you away when you have doubts. Just remember that faith does not require sight. Learn to find joy in your faith.
Live with integrity. This world makes it easy to compromise, to evade the truth, and to easily live with sin. Make sure that your word is worth something. Make sure that people who look closely into your life can see someone who lives what they believe. Integrity is reflected in who you are even when no when no one is looking.
Find your passion. God has given you gifts and talents. But you will find that in the church there are many times that you are asked to do things that do not lie in your area of giftedness. Prayerfully and considerately learn to say no to those things, so that you can serve in the areas where God has gifted you. And if the thing you are passionate about seems out of your reach, pray to God for opportunities to use the gifts he gave you. The opportunities will come, not always easily, and sometimes in the most unexpected ways. Be ready for when God calls.
Stay humble and grateful. Pride is so deceitful, and God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. It is easier to stay humble when you remember to give the glory to God for the things you accomplish. It is easy to be proud of our accomplishments rather than being grateful for them. It is easy to respond to accolades with pride rather than a sense of humility that God has allowed us the privilege of doing something good. Gratitude helps us always to remember our blessings in life. It is proven that people who live with an attitude of gratitude are happier in life.
Learn to listen. Everyone has a story. If we truly want to be a light in this world, we need to listen to the stories of others. When we learn to hear someone’s life story, it is easier to forgo judgments about people and develop a true compassion for them. I always think about Jesus and his conversation with the woman caught in adultery. He certainly knew her past and her life with sin, but he was compassionate toward her. While he told her to go and sin no more, he still treated her with dignity. He knew her story. You will meet many people throughout life, and some of them will certainly rub you the wrong way. Learning their stories and trying to see them through God’s eyes will open your heart to become a more compassionate, loving person.
Learn from mistakes. Wisdom is usually learned. It comes from mistakes made, lessons learned, and willingness to change. Everyone makes mistakes, and not all of them are sins. But along the way chances are you will sin. Sometimes you will mess up so badly you cannot see your way out of things. But being willing to step up to the plate, acknowledge your mistakes, and confess your sins, is a huge step toward learning wisdom.
Do not let the past define you. Many people dwell in the past and blame it for all the things that are wrong in their life today. We all have a past. Some are lucky enough to have a good one, but many have things that have occurred that have left scars. Our past has shaped us into the people we are today. But only let God define who you are, not your past. You are his child, beloved by Him.
Learn to use your voice. I am going to go out on a limb here and generalize that most men do not struggle as much with the issue of finding their voice. Women sometimes tend to lose who they are because they are so invested in the lives of others. A daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, etc. It is easy to lose you sometimes. So throughout your life, in all the stages of your life, remember to stay connected to the very essence of who you are. Take time for self-care while you are taking care of the needs of others.
Learn to say no. It is easy to become derailed from the things that God wants you to accomplish by the things that others see necessary. Many of the things people ask you to do in the church (and guilt you into doing) are good things—teaching, working in the nursery, cleaning, organizing a program, and being VBS director. But not everything is in your area of giftedness or necessary for you to do. Learn to use good judgment in the things you say yes and no to in your life. Pray about opportunities when you are asked to do something. Learn gracious ways of saying no.
Develop friendships. God created us to be relational beings. First, we need to have a relationship with him, and second, we need a relationship with others. You will find a lot of your friends in life will be seasonal and with you for a time, but you will need to develop some life-long friendships with some special people in your life. The close friends will be fewer, but definitely more precious. Those friends need to be willing to talk about the hard things, hold you accountable, pray with you, laugh with you, cry with you and sometimes, just sit and be with you. They are the kind who know your heart. They are the kind who know your flaws and still love you. They are the kind that are one of the best gifts from God.
There are so many things I can really tell my younger self, but in all honestly, they have been lessons learned on this journey of life. And had I but listened, they are all things I heard from others along the way. I just had to experience them for myself. It is how I learn the best. There is a song by Mercy Me called “Dear Younger Me” that expresses just what I feel sometimes.