Chat with Younger Me
Last week I celebrated my 38th birthday. 38 is basically 40 right? While it seems like a blur, I have learned a lot that I wish I could go back in time to tell my younger self. Maybe these lessons were being said and I didn’t listen, or maybe they weren’t as popular as they are now. But these lessons have been the key areas of growth that led to maturity which ultimately resulted in a healthier me. No matter where you are in your life, I think these could be helpful to you.
Aside from telling my younger self to be thankful for sleep and to do way more of it while possible, I’d tell him that what you are currently pursuing won’t result in what you really need. Was I wrong for all those years…ummm yes? My pursuit had been all about doing more and more for God and others. The more I helped others, the more I was helping God. While helping others as a primary goal seems good, it isn’t the best. Picture life like a garden that starts with soil, seed, water and sunlight that grows into something fruitful. When I was 18, I for sure thought my pursuit of knowledge, constant drive, and passion to be more effective would be what the seeds needed to become fruit. That didn’t happen, instead it left me pretty frustrated, always unsatisfied, and constantly wanting something different than I had. I would ask him to consider the pursuit of something different that actually will become good fruit God, he, and others would be blessed with.
Life was never meant to be lived alone. Rather, we were created relational by God and it is so good to be in real, life giving relationships. It’s not enough to have people around, they have to be there for you. I missed this! As I began to take the risk of being known by others, my life started changed. I didn’t want just one way streets any longer. I wanted to be known, and know others in a deep way. Connection was this deep need I had which the pursuit of achievement had denied. The pursuit for connection and healthy attachment turned into feelings of safety, support, and healing. I felt better on the inside no matter what was happening on the outside.
I know that my younger self would have no idea about this one. If I had pursued self-awareness sooner, I think I would have hurt less people along the way. I was too focused on other things to see myself. Peter Scazzero, expert on emotionally healthy spirituality says “You can surrender what you aren’t aware of.” There was much that God wanted to heal and transform, but I didn’t know those areas of my heart to invite Him to. Self-awareness is knowing oneself, including emotions, personality, strengths/weaknesses, and what’s behind them. I had so much under the surface of my life, that I was clueless about. As I began to slow down to reflect, listen, and uncover, my relationship with myself, God, and others exponentially grew. I was able to be more authentic instead of wearing a mask that I knew people would like. It was freeing and I felt so much better knowing myself.
I was taught when you work hard, you’ll get what you want. I harmfully believed the opposite of working hard was laziness. This left me having less energy to give towards what really mattered. I was too exhausted to help others and nourish those relationships. Exhaustion was a road block to learning and willingness to be vulnerable. Being real takes energy. Being connected to others and offering compassion takes energy. When I would rest, I found myself feeling guilty and shameful. So then I would get back to doing a task that hid my feeling of guilt. I was giving God and others a tired self that didn’t love well. I would tell my younger self that rest is necessary for life. I’d try to convince him that self-care is the path that leads to stewarding the gift of you to the world. Rest not just from work, but from any striving that you have in life. Put a boundary in place to take a break from an irritating person whose constant texts trigger you. Take a break from the striving to always be good, be strong, and be right. Take a few hours in a day to take a break from the struggle with your kids. Rest in the work of Jesus on the cross and that His work is enough for you. You can rest from the feeling that it’s all on you to bring about the best life. God is at work in you.
Instead of the pursuit for accomplishment and doing more for God and others, I would tell my younger self to pursue the practice of the rhythms that lead to a life of health, joy, and gratitude. God has given so many gifts to us that we don’t take the time to enjoy because we are too busy or over committed to others. This will live you full of resentment and bitterness. As I began to practice healthy rhythms such as slowing down, silence and reflection, positive self-talk, rest, and fasting (not just food), I was able to experience the delight in God and what He gives. This is contrary to what makes sense or probably what a work culture would approve of, but it leads to a life better connected to God, self, and others.
What are you in pursuit of? How has that affected your life? Do you think that it will leave you exhausted and bitter, or nourished and delightful? No matter where you are at, God wants to help you enjoy the life He’s giving you. You are not alone. Take a risk, change the norm, and experience His grace through it all.