What I Would Tell My 18-Year-Old Self
To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. -Ecclesiastes 3:1
Even though it has only been a year since I graduated from college, I look back at a lot of my experiences with smiles and winces. I came to Christ my freshman year after attending church for years with my family. When Christ got a hold of me, He really got ahold of me, but I was so caught up in the process, that it took the first three years of college to realize I had to slow down and listen to God in order to comprehend and fully understand the importance of seasons.
During the hustle and bustle of my college years, I was always on the go. I rarely had the time to slow down and think. I started out as a journalism major who was driven to be the next Anderson Cooper, but that dream was wrenched in idolatry and selfishness. In my driven, yet naive nature, I fought God when He tried to gently pull me closer to the plans He had for my life.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. -Jeremiah 29:11
The summer going into my senior year of college, I realized the importance of reflection and humility. As I gave way to the Lord’s plans, part of my flesh could not help but think of what others might think of me as I chose a path that consisted of uncertainty. When the Lord called me into nonprofit work, my family freaked out, my professors and friends were shocked, and I took on that pressure. I wavered in my reliance and dependency on the Lord. Yet, Scripture affirms the faithfulness of God and his promises.
The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth. -Exodus 34:5
This is the God we serve, compassionate, gracious, merciful and kind. When I look at His character and nature I can’t help but trust Him. In more of a concrete form, here are three things I would tell my 18 year old self:
Faith is a journey, so take your time.
He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. -Philippians 1:6
What do Abraham, Joseph and David have in common? All three men had God-ordained promises prophesied into their lives, but it took years before the promises came to fruition. Our walk of faith never reaches a milestone of completion here on earth. It is not until we see our Lord face to face that we will know what completion is. Therefore, my sisters in Christ, take your time and give yourself grace.
Get involved in a Christ-centered community.
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. -Colossians 3:12-16
Dwelling amongst fellow believers and allowing one another to refine and admonish each another is key to spiritual growth. We are not created to do this walk alone, so make an effort to find a gathering of people who will point you to Christ. This might be an on-campus ministry or a local church, but make an effort to visit a few groups and congregations to find the right fit for you. Ask friends and relatives for leads or just google a church and go visit on your own. Invest your time in other believers and they'll become your support system.
Ask the Lord for wisdom and make an effort to grow in your understanding of your calling.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God,who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. -James 1:5
Our God has an infinite source of wisdom, so let us ask Him not to solve our problems, but to teach us how to walk like Him through our problems. God has also gifted writers, theologians, pastors and many others with the knowledge to help others get to the root of issues, and many of them have written books about regarding topics that people struggle with. Take the time to study the Bible and other resources to figure out your strengths and goals. Above all, pray daily for clarity and wisdom on how to proceed. And God will guide you - day by day, one opportunity at a time.