Life is exciting.
Life is a journey.
Life is what you make it.
Life is short.
Life is a trust given by God.
All these and more are things we hear as we grow up. We hear them from our parents, grandparents, teachers, preachers and other caring adults. They make sense to our heads. And if we have a relationship with Jesus, we can understand them even more. But it’s not until we actually live our lives through that we see the real truth of these wise adages.
As a teen girl, I was probably a lot like some of you. I was raised by parents who loved me. I had a good, Bible-believing and teaching church. I attended a Christian school, took piano lessons, got along for the most part with my siblings (two brothers) and was looking forward to Bible College. Life was sort-of in a faster mode back in the 1980’s for many of us who are in your parents’ generation – I was already dating the guy who would become my husband. I was trying to follow Jesus and figure out what He had planned for me. There were a lot of blessings in my life.
But I also had some hang-ups. We all do. I had spots of immaturity in my emotions. I had areas in my spiritual life where I didn’t correctly understand the character of God or the theology that I had heard. I had some character flaws that needed cleansing and refining. I had temperament weaknesses on which God wanted to work. Guess what? You have these things going on too. It’s normal. If the emotional/spiritual maturing process were as quick as physical puberty, we would all enter our college experience ready for life. No, take that back – we might not even need college! We would do “adulting” perfectly!
Growth and learning are good and right. That’s the first thing I want to tell you. And on that foundation, let me share with you some of the things I discovered that I would tell my younger self if that were possible.
1. God loves you today, like you are, without the changes you want to make.
This is reassuring, but very hard for us to grasp because it seems to fly in the face of our theology. Based on Scripture, we do believe that God’s grace at work in our lives changes us in definable ways, that we don’t stay in our sins, that we become more Christlike. That is true. You will not, in fact, you cannot, stay the same with the life of God at work in you. You will change. But, today, He loves the woman you are. He can deliver from addictions. He can help you with your thought life. He can show you how to balance your eating. He can give you wisdom in your music choices. He can give you grace to adjust your language and guard your moods. All of that is within His power to do. But today, you are worth more than diamonds to Him just because you’re you. Revel in that as you surrender yourself to His work in you.
“The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17 NKJV).
2. God works in process.
This took a long time for me to understand. Because I knew that God saves us instantly (in a moment when we understand that Jesus died for us and cast ourselves through faith on His grace), I somehow thought that God would iron out all my flaws pretty quickly too. I thought I could get it all fixed up with a prayer. I was wrong.
Prayers in our bedroom or at the altar are awesome moments but they do not take the place of daily growing in our understanding and continually choosing to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit.
One of my heroes, Dr. Michael Avery, President Emeritus of God’s Bible School and College, calls this process “spiritual formation.” God slowly and steadily “forms” us into the image of Christ. We surrender to that. There are wonderful verses in the Bible which talk about that.
“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it [complete it] until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus… perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you” (1 Peter 5:10 NKJV).
Be obedient to the next step God shows you. And be okay with process. He’s taking you somewhere amazing.
3. You are beautiful.
I know. You’ve heard versions of this before. Even Dove Soap jumped on this bandwagon with their “Real Beauty” campaign (and I applaud some of what they say). But none of us really believe it. Right? We know what beauty is. We believe our eyes. Facial symmetry, big eyes, silky skin, shining hair, sleek figure – yes, we can make a list of the attributes we think define beautiful. And that does define outward beauty. But there aren’t many women alive who can claim all of those. And some of the ones who do have had surgical and/or cosmetic interventions to make it so. We all come to the mirror with just us. And we know the things that make us cringe inside and keep us from being confident around the “glamour girls” at school and youth camp. So, I would tell a younger “me” that you are beautiful because you’re a woman, made to image God in earthly beauty. There is beauty in you and on you. It’s your job to look for it. It’s your job to enhance it in appropriate and God-honoring ways. It’s your job to delight in it. No excuses. Just start looking.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27).
“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works… [that’s you – one of His ‘works’!]” (Psalm 139:14).
4.Friendliness and kindness are your best goals.
Most of us have dreams and goals. Maybe you want to be a starter on the volleyball team at your Christian school. Maybe you want to be the star Bible quizzer at youth camp or named as “camper of the week.” Maybe you want to be valedictorian. Maybe you aim to be in a college singing group. Whatever yours is, we all have goals. But, let me tell you that being the same friendly and kind self in every setting and with everybody pays off better than achieving any of these things. You know why? People matter more. Someday, the certificates and trophies and congratulations on Facebook won’t be important anymore because you will be living real life with a family and other stuff on your mind. But the relationships you make with others will enrich your life until you die or they do. As teens, we have a tendency to be self-absorbed. And some of that is unavoidable because we’re discovering who we are and what we’re supposed to do. But as much as we are able to “see” others around us and interact and serve them, we are way ahead of the game. Believe me. It’s true.
“If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us” (1 John 4:12 NKJV).
5. Your future is safer than you think.
As a teen girl, I had many hopes for my future. And I worried at times how that would look. I’m sure you have too. But if we are Christ-followers, we can be assured that He will only lead us in good paths. Now, I didn’t say easy or always fun paths, but good ones. I have had some crazy times; some bad stuff has happened in my life. It wasn’t all fun. But God has me on a good path. He’s been there every step. And you know that old saying about “the grace is there when you need it”? That’s true. You can’t imagine how that will feel when you’re not in the situation. But whatever you need at the moment, He will give. That’s what He does. He’s a good Father. A life of peace begins with accepting that fact. Not understanding it, but mentally accepting it as true just like you accept the truth of algebra because your teacher says it.
Yes, you will need to make choices as you follow Him into the future, but guess what? If we’re trusting Him, He gives us the strength even to make the choices!
That’s right. He so much wants us to be with Him now and always that He even gives us the strength to choose Him! How cool is that! So, if you’re God’s girl, breathe a little easier about your future. He’s already there and it’s going to be all right.
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
“The steps of a good man [that also means woman] are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way” (Psalm 37:23 NKJV). God delights in your way, your path!
So, to the younger me and to you, remember God is for you and with you and you have all you need to live in Him! This verse helps me remember that I can conquer all my fears and live in joy. “The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills” (Habakkuk 3:19 NKJV).