I just marked the 10-year anniversary of my 21st birthday. It’s shocking how fast that decade flew past me—21 feels like a long weekend ago. Convinced more than ever that time flies, I started thinking about what I might say if I had the chance to sit down with me 10 years ago.
So, dear 21-year-old me, here’s a little wisdom you could have used a decade sooner.
Surprise the sun.
Man, you love that pillow. In Economics you will learn about opportunity cost, which is “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.” Sleeping late is a textbook example. I know you have nothing happening until lunch, but you’ll regret not starting your day earlier. Too many great men and women in the Bible rose early for you to miss this. Wake up, drink a cup of coffee, meet with the Lord, and plan your day. The returns are so good they’ll surprise you, and you’ll be more productive over the long run, too.
Once you’re married and your daughter comes, it’s the only real time you’ll have to yourself anyway. Better start practicing now. Michael Hyatt has a great blog entitled “Slay Your Dragons Before Breakfast.” Check it out.
Marriage will be wonderful and hard.
Even though you’re 21, you’re kind of a dummy when it comes to understanding love. You’re convinced it’s about finding a trophy, the mythical “Kelly Kapowski” who will banish all your insecurities. I wish I didn’t have to embarrass you with a fictional analogy from a high school TV show, but a big part of you still lives there.
The truth is, you’re too screwed up for any girl to save you. God loves you too much for that to happen anyway. His clear hope is for you to share in His holiness, and marriage is a strategic gift to wrangle you away from self-absorption. Soon enough you’ll see that because Jesus gave His life for you, you can lay down yours for her. It might feel like death, especially at first, but He’ll lead you into joy.
One more thing: Just because God will use your marriage to sanctify you doesn’t mean you won’t have fun. Marriage gets better, not worse. Don’t listen to people who relegate marriage to some sacred chore. Your wife’s not a ball and chain; she’s a treasure. The more you watch your beautiful wife count you better than herself, the more you’ll thank God for teaching a dummy like you about love.
Stop worrying what people will think of you.
Know that feeling you get when you’re around someone you think you have to impress to get where you need to go? Ignore it. It’s dumb. Worse, it’s sinful. Jeremiah says you’re like a parched desert plant that eventually dies alone. There’s not a drop of real nourishment when you choose people’s validation over God.
God’s fatherly love for you is staggering and complete. You’ll need to constantly remind yourself of this. Keep cultivating your mind to understand how the gospel frees you from fear of man. Ed Welch says it well: Jesus allows us to “need people less, love people more.”
Relying on your talent alone is weak.
You spend way too much time thinking about what you’re capable of and not enough time actually breaking a sweat. Stephen King equates talent with table salt. It’s cheap and there’s a lot of it, and nobody worth his or her own salt is going to roll out the red carpet for a 20-something who thinks he’s better than everyone else.
But a hard worker, the kind who remains teachable, who recognizes dignity in all work, who worries less about his title and more about the people around him, honors the Lord. Remember, Jesus came as a blue-collared carpenter; you’re not too good for anything. God cares a whole lot more about faithfulness than He does about talent.
I wish I could say there were only four things in 10 years I’ve had to learn the hard way. But know this: He loves you, and He’s put His whole heart into your redemption. Be encouraged. And stop eating Oreos.