Over the past few weeks I've realized a reoccurring theme in conversations with friends. The topic being how we felt like we knew it all when we were 18 years old and again when we were 21, thinking that we had everything figured out and that we were so much more mature than we really were. We thought we had grown to the peak of knowledge and understanding of life, when in actuality -- we didn't.
Here I sit at 25 years old, hopefully a little bit wiser and definitely a bit more mature from the obstacles life has dealt me. It's not hard to look at the younger generations and see the same mistakes, quirks, and arrogance that I myself carried at a younger age. Many times I'll smirk at the things I'll see posted on facebook or overhear in a conversation from the younger generation, remembering being in those same shoes once before. At 25 I've learned many of lifes lessons, most of which came through trial and error, making me a bit more keen to certain things and hopefully preparing me for the next obstacles that come my way.
I wanted to share what I've learned, firstly so that I can remind myself where I've been and how thankful to the Lord for bringing me to where I am. Secondly, so that I can share a bit of wisdom with anyone who wants to learn from a guy who is famous for learning things the hard way. Third, I hope that one day my children can hear my stories and learn some lessons from them. No, I'm not married yet and I don't see children coming into my life for awhile -- but you better believe I pray for my future family every single day. Why not get an early start?
So, ready or not here are 8 things I've learned (So far) in 25 years of life (in no certain order) -- please keep in mind that these are molded from my personal experiences-- I am in no way shape or form claiming to be all knowing or wise. I simply want to share a little bit or perspective with the world.
#1. Be real with yourself.
How many times have I painted a grand masterpiece in my head, only to find out how unrealistic I was being? Too many times. At a young age I had visions of grandeur with what I wanted my life to be. Don't get me wrong, I think it's important to dream big and pursue your dreams. But BE REAL with yourself, you must know what you can do and what you can't do. Every ones story is different, sometimes things do happen fast and all at once, other times they take years to accomplish. Make realistic plans with realistic expectations. Be patient. Take your time. Don't rush. At 18 I wanted to be married, have a career, and a family by the time I was 21 -- that didn't happen, because I wasn't being real with myself. I wrote a life check for $1,000,000,000 when my life bank only had $1.50 in it. It turned out that Gods plan was way better than the fantasy I had imagined in my head.
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11
#2. Work hard every day of your life.
Boy, do I wish I had instilled this into my head at 18 years old. After moving from Lake Placid, FL, where my job experience was working about 15 hours a week, to Lexington, KY where I needed a full-time 40hr a week job, reality set in that just doing the minimum wasn't enough. I got my first job at UPS and they worked me like a dog. I quit after two weeks because they were rude, but lets be real, I was a pampered sissy boy who hadn't worked a demanding job in my life -- I couldn't handle it. I bounced around from part-time job to part-time job receiving mediocre reviews from managers. It took me a couple more years before I realized I needed a better work ethic and an appreciation for the work the Lord had provided for me. When you get a job, take it serious and work hard from the time you clock in until you clock out. There is something admirable about someone who comes home from work exhausted, with dirty hands, and a need for a shower. And don't merely work hard at your job. Work hard for friends, family, and loved ones in whatever task they ask of you. It improves character and humbles us -- putting others before us in an act of servant hood.
"For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living." - 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12
#3. Own your mistakes.
This doesn't even really require a whole lot of breaking down. When you make a mistake whether it be big or small, don't brush it off and place the blame elsewhere. You should own your mistakes in whatever situation it may be. I know it's difficult facing someone you've hurt or let down. It's tough facing your critics when you make a giant mistake, you want to disappear or run away, but don't let your pride interfere with your need to take ownership of the situation. In most experiences I've encountered in my 25 years, people respected me more when I took ownership instead of avoiding it, being defensive or dishonest about it. If you mess up, own it and move on.
"Though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand." - Psalm 37:24
#4. Listen more, talk less.
This one is something I've tried to heed to much more than I used to. We live in a society where its texting, tweeting, status updates, emails, instagramming, etc. We tend to talk more and listen less -- when in reality it should be the exact opposite. If we aren't listening to what other people are telling us, we have no way of serving or loving them, plain and simple. We need to take a step back and listen to what people are telling us by processing what they are really saying. Sometimes people don't always come out and say what they need, and often times if we just stop and listen to them we can digest it a little better and hear what they are trying to convey to us. Other times, people convey EXACTLY what they want, but we are too busy talking and preparing our next big speech. Sometimes people just want us to listen and not jump in at every other word. So next time you think of something wonderful to say to a friend or loved one who is talking to you -- don't. Wait until they are done, then respond.
"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak." - James 1:19
#5. Don't always be the hero.
This one may leave a few people scratching their heads, but let me explain. I'm not sure if it's a man thing, or if I grew up watching too many super hero movies and cartoons as a kid, but I have always had a heart for helping people in any capacity. This is not to boast, because it's actually a quality that sometimes is obnoxious. Anytime a loved one was in trouble or needed anything, I wanted to be the big hero. I wanted to swoop in and watch that person go from insecure and upset, to assured and content. It's not a bad thing to want to help people, or make someones day by being the hero from time to time but let me assure when I say, sometimes it's okay to do - nothing. Some people don't need a hero. Some people just want you to know whats going on and to listen. Some people need to do things on their own, without your help. It's okay to play the supporting role and not the starring role. Trust the Lord, and pray for that person. I assure you that will do more in the long run, then anything else you could do.
"Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” - Matthew 26:52-54
#6. Find community.
This one is huge to not only living a Godly life, but staying sane through all of lifes obstacles. I cannot stress how important it is to experience corporate worship and community with other believers in every aspect of your life. When I moved to Kentucky seven years ago, I lost every part of the community I had built at my home town in Florida. I didn't realize it then, but that changed who I was and the person I became. God became less of a priority, I stopped going to church for awhile. I lost every ounce of accountability in my life when I lost my community. It's not sudden and it doesn't happen overnight but once you lose that community things get much harder. Now I know some people prefer to be alone or not be with big groups of people, that is fine, so long as they are experiencing community from time to time. Its the permanent isolation from community that will leave you feeling lonely and struggling in many aspects of your life. Once I found my community in Younglife and now in church, I can see the fruit of being connected with friends and other people who really care about me. It's imperative you find that and keep it.
"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." - Hebrews 10:24-25
#7. Love her well.
This one is for the fellas - I have no marriage experience so I'll talk about this from the dating perspective. It's impossible not to see how relationships are treated these days. People getting together, people breaking up, people looking for lifetime commitment, and people looking for selfish satisfaction. There are so many variables in dating and most of them are wrong. It's all around us and I understand that some men may be confused with how to act or approach a dating relationship. If I've learned anything, it's this -- Love her well. How do we do this? By genuinely caring for her heart, not controlling it, but by encouraging and treating it with respect. Don't just tell her you care for her, show her you care for her by acts of service and by making her a priority in your life -- Not necessarily the top priority but a clear cut priority that is obvious by your actions. Listen to her and what she is saying. Protect her purity (this is huge). Never stop pursuing her (also huge). Be her best friend. Be honest with her. Make her laugh. Push her to pursue the Lord and ask her to do the same for you. Every man will encounter a woman who has different quirks about her. Take time to learn those quirks and find out who she really is. Take it slow and let the Lord guide you in the relationship. If you fight, work out your differences -- don't be petty and you'd better leave your pride at the door. Relationships are give and take, you cannot go into the relationship with a wish list of things you expect, you'll be doomed for failure. People change and grow, the purpose of dating is to see if you can marry that person. If you find the love of your life, fight for her, but listen for Gods direction. Enjoy the time you have with one another. Things will progress as they need to. Love her well.
"Love never fails" - 1 Corinthians 13:8
#8. Never give up.
In 25 years, there have been so many times I've wanted to quit and walk away. In so many aspects of my life I have seen and witnessed things that would make anyone just want to give up. In high school I quit the soccer team my senior year because I was benched in favor of another player. I told people I quit because I was just tired of playing soccer after almost 12 years. The reality is that things got hard, and when things didn't go my way I gave up. Today, I regret quitting because I loved playing so much. As the years went by, I moved and faced even harder circumstances in life. There were times I wanted to quit and some that I did quit. But through the absolute WORST times in my life -- which I won't mention today -- I was able to keep going. It wasn't easy by any stretch of the imagination, but it made me who I am today. I am stronger and wiser because of Gods comfort telling me to keep pressing on. When I was faced with the seemingly worst situation and I would almost scream to God in anger, a small still voice said "Keep going." I cannot tell you how difficult it was to listen to that voice, but today, I am thankful that I did. So I urge you reader, never give up or quit. God is always with us and his plan is good. We just have to keep the faith. I am so thankful of where I am today.
"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." - James 1:12
So there are the 8 things I think are super important to remember. I'm sure if I sat here for another couple hours I could make a much longer list, but these are the things that neeeded to be addressed right now. In 5, 10, 20 years from now maybe I'll look back and laugh thinking I had these things figured out.
Or maybe, just maybe, I'll be reminded of where I've come from and how far God has brought me.