I turned 20 yesterday. Yes, I know, Happy Birthday to me.
I hadn’t thought much about the number until my husband mentioned that I was spending the very last moments of my teens on my birthday eve. There was a brief moment of panic. What? I can never be a teenager again! Like never.
I had a rough few years in my teens. There was a lot of fire and chiseling going on in the beginning, but looking back, there is nothing but peace, because I know that I allowed God to make my heart sharp and beautiful. I feel satisfied deep in my soul with how I have grown and all I have learned.
Last night, I was reflecting on the end of a chapter and the start of a new one. What did I learn? What did I invest? How can I grow in this chapter?
This is what I would say to my past teen self and anyone else who cares to grow:
Don’t spend your teens trashing your body and soul in a joy ride. “Old” is not a coffin to avoid with reckless resolve.
If you become “old in wisdom” while you are young, your gray haired days will be youthful. Old age will only ever be a crown- not an impending doom. They say that age is mind over matter. “If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” 🙂
Be inclined towards wisdom. Knowledge is only helpful until there is a problem. Wisdom is the key that unlocks mysteries and offers sustainable solutions. You can pray for answers, but sometimes we are too puny to carry them. Pray for the character and wisdom to sustain the answer when it comes.
Teen years are only a tiny blip in the bucket of a potentially full life. Invest in something to carry into your 20s. It would be unfortunate to end the teens with nothing to sustain momentum. You never have to start over if you don’t quit. So don’t quit.
There’s never an “arrival moment” in the history you are creating each moment. If we aren’t growing, we are probably dead. So don’t live waiting for perfection. Be flawed, fine, but let your rough cuts be chiseled into diamonds.
Don’t carry your mistakes as a sack of bones on your shoulder. Failure can only bind you in regret form. It is possible to be mortal without regrets because our mortality is swallowed in glorious Immortality that lives and is working inside us. You are always being redeemed and perfected; the sting of death and sin has been removed. History is only a shadow if you don’t learn from it. If you can utilize your mistakes towards growth, your past is given redemption wings that shine bright light on your future.
Learn the art of response. A life lived in reaction will only produce that which you determined to avoid. It’s ok to know what you don’t want, but it is crucial to find what you do want if you actually want it to become a reality. You will become like what you focus on. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 Abiding is a full time job that you can never afford to retire from.
Take care of your body. Self respect manifests in more ways than the way we dress and carry ourselves. There’s a lot of talk about what we put on and what we see and hear, but there’s a huge gap of understanding when it comes to stewarding the ingredients we consume so that our organs function according to design. It’s never fun to see a glutton screaming about external propriety, so learn from it and be an example. Food is either safe medicine or slow poison. Learn it young. It’s important.
Understand that guarding your heart has more to do with staying unguarded before God than self preservation tactics. If you want to guard your heart, get naked before God. He is qualified to weigh our hearts and light our paths.
Establish healthy boundaries. If you disrespect yourself, average folks will reciprocate that disrespect. You can only control yourself. Draw a line of honor and stick to it. Doing so will keep you at full potential, and your example will draw others to do the same, particularly in your presence. If someone wants to get close to you, they will have to find their honor because you will not allow yourself to be leeched onto by their cycle of insecurity and powerlessness. Your victory can’t be cloned. Each person must make powerful choices in order to change and become honorable. Do not participate in conversations that are disrespectful and drain hope from the room.
Always remain in love. If you are right, never step outside of love in order to get the last word in. Wisdom is not afraid to look like a fool in order to uphold a greater purpose than what is visible. Don’t allow your critics to crush your spirit. Let the pain of rejection bring you back to who you are and where you are going. Eventually, it will barely hurt at all because Jesus is so much nearer than before you shared in His suffering.
Don’t take yourself too seriously to have fun. Enjoy the ride. Life is way too short to not drink orange juice and laugh until you cry on occasion. Lighten up. “Serious” is not a fruit of the Spirit. 😉
Never stop being a student. There is always more to learn. Build new blocks on a good foundation and you will age like fine wine.
Lastly, if you are stubborn and make a train wreck of your life anyways after all this, you are never beyond redemption and a fresh start. Try to get it the third or fourth time though. You can only repeat stupid so many times before you start believing that’s all you are capable of. And we know that is a lie.
Happy Birthday to me!