20 Things I Would Tell My 20-Year-Old Self

20 Things I Would Tell My 20-Year-Old Self

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I was an adult without a working template for what it meant to be an adult. To make matters worse, I was an unregenerate adult without a clear and practical model for living well in God’s world. I went into adulthood wearing a four-layered blindfold.

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Our Four Universal Problems

  • Theological Problem: I did not know God.
  • Psychological Problem: I did not know myself.
  • Sociological Problem: I did not understand people.
  • Ecological Problem: I did not know my place in God’s world.

With no illumination from the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14) and no template for life (2 Timothy 3:16-17), I could not relate well with others or find my true niche in life.

I made many mistakes as a young person. Though I achieved the height of omniscience as a 19-year old, there was one piece of intelligence I did not have: I was dumber than I knew. Mercifully, the Lord turned the light on when I was twenty-five (John 3:7). It was then that I began to realize my dumbness and how I was getting dumber by the day.

After the light was turned on (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19), the more I was able to see the things that had dulled my senses (Hebrews 3:7-8, 4:7, 5:12-14). This dullness kept me from the humility (James 4:6) and maturity needed (John 17:17) to grow in Christ (2 Peter 3:18).

Unfortunately, by the time I got to God, many mistakes had accumulated in my life. Thirty years later, I’m still living out the repercussions of some of those errors. I’ve often wondered what it would have been like to have a working template for being an adult.

I’m not angry with my father or others for not giving me one, though it would have been nice to have someone teach me. The two essential things I needed were a relationship with God and someone to guide me (Acts 8:30-31). Being born again and having a friend to teach what it means to be born again is called discipleship. I had neither.

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That Got Me to Thinking

If I were that older friend teaching a 20-year-old things that I would like to have known, I would tell my 20-year-old self these twenty things. This list is not exhaustive, and the stuff on my list is not in order of priority. All of them are important. I wish I knew them. I’m sure you can add to them.

  1. Embrace your ignorance: You don’t know everything (1 Corinthians 8:2).
  2. Find your Paul: Be a learner from those who know more than you do (Romans 15:14).
  3. Govern your idealism: You’re not going to change the world. Be realistic (Proverbs 16:9).
  4. Start relational problem-solving with you: Keep the log firmly planted in your eye (Matthew 7:3-5).
  5. Learn to serve, not to be helped: You find true freedom in serving (Mark 10:45).
  6. Repent often: Be a confessional Christian (1 John 1:7-10).
  7. Create godly habits: Choose good habits to discipline yourself (Hebrews 5:14).
  8. Overlook offenses: As much as possible, don’t sweat the smaller annoyances (Romans 12:18).
  9. Find honest friends: Surround yourself with honest truth-tellers (Proverbs 27:6).
  10. Marry to bless your spouse: Don’t make marriage about what you want (Ephesians 5:22-33).
  11. Only one opinion matters: What God thinks about you is most important (John 3:36).
  12. Teach others after you die: Export the gospel to others who can export it to others (2 Timothy 2:2).
  13. Take risks: Make decisions with faith while not limiting what the Lord can do through you (Matthew 14:28-33).
  14. Apply what you learn: Don’t be a knowledge collector with no application (James 1:22-25).
  15. Paint a picture: Show people what the practical Jesus looks like in real life (1 Corinthians 11:1).
  16. Teach yourself to reflect: Become a thinker. Train your mind to process life through a Bible lens (Proverbs 15:28).
  17. Connect your gifts to your vocation: Find satisfaction by merging your gifts with your career (1 Peter 4:10).
  18. Be mastered by the Word: Brainwash your mind with God’s Word (Psalm 119:11).
  19. Pray without ceasing: Ask the Spirit for constant, step-by-step illumination (John 16:13).
  20. Following Christ while helping others to do the same is the best kind of life you’ll ever have.

BONUS TIP: You have a cross that is custom-fitted to your back. You will have to decide how you’re going to think about that cross and live it out on a daily basis. You are called to suffer (Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 2:21). How you steward the “gift of suffering” will affect how you respond to God, yourself, and others. Stewarding the gift of cross-carrying is the hardest lesson you’ll ever learn.

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