The thirtieth year is upon me and I have been reflecting over the last decade. It has been one of becoming and learning. I wish I could go back to that naive girl and give her these bits of advice to help her navigate the process of figuring where and how she fits into this time and space.
1. The Lord will be the most faithful, consistent part in your life. He will sustain you through heart break, change, and loss. And even when it feels like He isn’t there, He is.
“Union with God is not something we acquire by a technique but the grounding truth of our lives that engenders the very search of God. Because He is the ground of our being, the relationship between creature and Creator is such that, by sheer grace, separation is not possible. God does not know how to be absent. The fact that most of us experience throughout most of our lives a sense of absence or distance from God is the great illusion that we are caught up in; this is the human condition.” Martin Laird from “Into the Silent Land”
2. You have value. You are not defined by bad decisions but as God’s own. And though the gifts you have been given are to be used for Him, you will mess up and be selfish and indulgent. Repent, rest in the fact you are covered by grace, and move on. You do not need to try and prove yourself…just carry on. This guilt is pride and a life of pride (whether in ego or self-deprecation) is really no life at all.
3. Serve others. This is one of the most important ways to utilize the inherent value you possess and most powerful way to maintain perspective. It will also feed that hunger that tells you, “there’s more to life than this”.
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” -Mother Teresa
4. Be brave and live intentionally. Meg Jay, clinical psychologist specializing in 20-somethings says it best when she describes the 20’s as a “developmental sweet spot” in which the “seeds of marriage, family, and career are planted.” Intentionally decide how to spend your free time, what to read, what music to listen to, and carefully pursue your passions. This also includes the folks with whom you spend your free time because, over time they will impact who you are developing into–you either choose that influence or it will be decided for you through your complacency.
““Thomas Merton wrote, “There is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.”
There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end.” -Annie Dillard
5. Marry for love. Yes, there are other things to consider when marrying: like-mindedness on spiritual issues, child-rearing, and life goals, and I’m certainly not minimizing the undeniable importance of those things. But be sure not to intellectualize love too much. When your baby is a week old, you haven’t slept, and you smell of sour milk (when WAS the last time you showered, anyway?), you want to look across the room at a man who’s looking back at you with love.
6. Logic is not superior to emotion. A life lived in black and white is dull. While rules and facts are crucial, also consider the value of emotions and what they add to life. Consistently trying to purge yourself of emotion will undoubtedly make you a cynic. When there is hurt and it seems easier to drown yourself in logic, hurry to your piano or guitar and play. Music will always be a faithful outlet. And baking.
7. Think intentionally. Reflecting is one of the most important skills you will learn over the next 10 years. Make time for it. Spend time in nature and in the early mornings. Memorize scripture, read good books, listen to quality music, and collect quotes that speak to you deeply. When you run aground, these things will bring you back out into the deeps.
“Chaste be your mind and your body, and both in subjection, obediently steadfastly seeking the aim set before them; only through discipline may a man learn to be free.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
8. Life is dynamic. Yes, change is uncomfortable and you’re naturally inclined to resist but if you’re not changing, you’re not growing.
“Change is the essential process of all existence.” -Spock
9. Pray. Listen to the inner voice telling you that prayer can be deeper than you know it to be. It will be a source of peace and meaning. Explore it, research it, and try to understand the different methods that have been passed down from our Christian fathers.
“The Holy Spirit himself preaches here (in our prayers), and one word of his sermon is far better than a thousand of our prayers. Many times I have learned more from one prayer than I might have learned from much reading and speculation.” -Martin Luther
10. “Push it. Examine all things intensely and relentlessly.” Annie Dillard