Before you read Betty’s post, I (Sarah) want to give a little introduction. You know those people you just look up to? Not because they’re perfect, but because their lives testify to the goodness and faithfulness of God. The one’s who live in light of the Gospel. Who do the faithful, unseen, but oh so important work day in and day out. The ones who love people well. The people you go to when you need God’s wisdom spoken into your life. Betty and her husband, John, are those kind of people in the lives of myself, my husband and many other individuals here in our community. As I grow in my walk with the Lord, I am repeatedly reminded of the importance of learning from believers more mature in the faith. Titus 2 speaks of older men and women teaching younger men and women in the ways of the Lord. Why? Because their experience as they have walked through various aspects of life, seeing God’s Word pan out personally over the span of decades, allows for a wealth of wisdom that can be imparted to those younger than they. Because of this truth, God put it on my heart to ask Betty if she would write an essay of advice to her 25-year-old self, in order that us younger ladies might sit and glean from the insight and wisdom God has given her as she looks back and reflects on years past.
Thank you, Betty, for you the example of humility and faithfulness you set, and thank you for being willing to share your words of wisdom with us.
Be encouraged, friends.
When Sarah asked me to write a letter of advice to my 25 year old self for her blog, I immediately loved the idea. I hadn’t visited that version of myself in my mind in quite a while. These days, as a newly arrived empty nester, most of my nostalgic memories are of the years with my children at home. But my 25 year old self didn’t have children yet; my 25 year old self wasn’t even married yet! As I look at 3 pieces of advice I would give my 25 year old self from the vantage point of my present self, my prayer is that God would meet you in the midst of these words...regardless of which stage you are in.
#1. Be present in the moment happening rather than always looking forward to the “Next Big Thing.”
During my last year in college I took 21 units a quarter. Why was I in such a hurry to finish? Were my parents pressuring me? No. Did I need to finish to get into another school the following year? No. There was no actual reason beyond this being my M.O.A. at the time, and one I still default to today if I don’t catch myself. Yesterday as I was going on my daily run, I passed by a huge stand of blackberry bushes. During late summer/early fall, there are tons of blackberries just down the street from my house. I always look forward to those berries - they serve as my “reward” at the end of my run! But for the past few days I’ve gone racing past them because I had things I needed to get done at home. Yesterday though, I felt the Lord whispering, “Slow down...stop and eat the blackberries!” This lesson is clearly one I am still working on. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says that “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” That word “season” in the Hebrew is the word “Et,” which means more specifically “the right time, the proper time.” The word “activity” is translated from “hepes,” which means “pleasure, delight, wish, desire.” The 25 year old version of me was always racing towards the next weekend, the next semester, the next - fill in the blank - rather than embracing the delights God had for me right in the moment I was in. So the first piece of advice I would give my younger self would be to “stop and eat the blackberries.” Don’t rush through the season you are in; rather, be present in that season, gleaning the joy God has for you right there rather than looking forward to the end game so much that you miss the “berries” that are right on your path.
#2: Face difficult conversations head on, trusting that God will walk you through to the other side.
Here’s the thing: The need for the hard conversation rarely goes away, and avoiding it not only makes the discussion more difficult, but it creates and builds anxiety that is much worse than the dreaded conversation itself. Romans 12:9-21 is one of those passages that clarifies how we are to act in relation to one another. Verse 9 starts with, “Love must be sincere,” and then continues on to give advice on how relationships should look like from God’s perspective. In verses 17 and 18, Paul states, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” My younger self wanted to believe that “peace” and avoidance were basically the same thing; that the way to be at peace with my family and friends was to simply not talk about the hard stuff. But what that does is create an artificial, plastic peace - a relationship that is fine on the surface, but doesn’t have any substance underneath. I had to learn to risk being uncomfortable in a conversation, risk the possibility of a misunderstanding, risk the relationship itself - for the sake of truth spoken in love. One of my more difficult conversations in my mid-20’s was one with my grandfather. My husband (then boyfriend) is black. I’m white. This was the mid-1980’s, and my grandfather was decidedly NOT open to the idea of interracial relationships. I knew I had to tell him about John (my husband), but I dreaded it - because I also knew that there was a strong possibility that I would have to choose between the two of them. I also knew I would choose John - but I didn’t want to choose, and “successfully” avoided it for about a year. But when it got to the point that John and I were talking about marriage, I knew my grandfather and I had to have a talk. I would love to tell you that it was a wonderful conversation and he totally accepted the idea. But that’s not how it played out - he was appalled, and told me he would disown me if I married John. It wasn’t the happy ending I was hoping for, but there was a peace on the other side of it. I had done what I had the power to do by speaking the truth in love; I had obeyed what God had required of me. My grandfather’s response was between him and the Lord - and the reality was that he didn’t know the Lord. But after that conversation, God told me to keep the door open on my end by writing letters to my grandfather, and I did. I explained my relationship with God, my relationship with John, and how he could have a relationship with Jesus himself. My grandfather never answered those letters, but I believe he read them, and that God used them to soften his heart. 3 years after our wedding, and 5 years after he disowned me, my grandfather called me out of the blue. Shortly after that (and about 6 months before he died) he met John and our baby Malia. He shook John’s hand, and held his granddaughter for the first time. My prayer is that he opened his heart to the Lord as well. I won’t know that for sure until heaven, but I do know that I got to share Jesus with him through those letters in a way that he never would have allowed in person - all because I was finally willing to have the difficult conversation I had been dreading. So my second piece of advice to my 25 year old self would be to be willing to walk through the dark tunnel of difficult conversations, trusting that God will bring you out on the other side, blinking in the bright sunlight of clarity and peace.
#3: Be willing to thirst. Trust that He does indeed love you, and have what’s best for you in mind. Be willing to wait it out.
During my early to mid-twenties most of my Christian friends were already in serious relationships. All of my roommates were. It was hard, because I did have a desire to be married. Now there were many times I was content in my singleness. There was a freedom to it...an openness to possibilities of what God could do with my life that He couldn’t do as easily with someone who wasn’t single. But there were also times when I longed for that special relationship. By the time I had hit 25 I had met John, but it would be three more years before we married. Earlier in my 20’s, during my 2nd year in college, I met a young man who lived in the same dorm. We became good friends; we both played guitar and loved the same music, we shared books that we enjoyed, we could talk about anything and everything. But he wasn’t a Christian. He was willing to talk about Jesus, but for him, Jesus was a good teacher - and that was it.
And so, I had a choice to make. I could take this relationship to “the next level” or I could let him go, trusting that God had something - someone - better for me. That was a hard process of letting go. I hadn’t met John yet, and that young man was right there...and I did not understand why the whole “God thing” had to be such a make it or break it issue between us. But The Lord said to my heart, “Trust Me - be willing to wait, and be willing to thirst for a while while you wait. Trust that I love you and that I am enough.” My life verse at that time was Jeremiah 29:11, “‘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 a future and a hope.’” And so my third and final piece of advice is this: Young 25 year old self, trust Him with your future. Trust Him with your desires. Trust Him with your heart. He is absolutely trustworthy. I’ve seen your future - I live there now. And while the path was not always smooth, while the tunnels were sometimes completely dark - still there were many seasons with blackberries. And from my vantage point of 30 years later, the waiting was completely worth it.
Your 55 Year Old Self