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Dear 19-Year-Old Me,
You’re probably wearing a t-shirt and baggy sweatpants, a ponytail wagging back-and-forth as you bee-bop around your Christian university in between chapel and the campus center. The whole concept of “college” as an educational experience is beyond you, but you sincerely enjoy it nonetheless. Yours is a good place full of good people. A safe place. You are good at being safe.
What you lack in social skills you make up for in kindness and wit. You have enough of a wild streak to make you fun but an equal amount of self-righteousness to make you just a bit stuck up, even if you hide it well. You resent the fact that you inherited your mother’s guilty conscience and crave the freedom to make terrible decisions. You are keenly aware of your weaknesses (still are) and paranoid that others might find them out, too. Life tip: it’s okay if they do. They might even like you more. People don’t appreciate perfection nearly as much as you think.
You haven’t felt God much in your life yet. You’ve heard countless sermons and been to boat-loads of Christian camps. You’ve gone on a couple of mission trips that involved you and your giggling friends passing buckets of mud to boys you had crushes on in the mornings and playing soccer with the locals in the evenings. You’ve even cautiously raised your hands up in the air while worshiping once or twice.
But if I asked you to pinpoint one time in your life in which you genuinely felt God’s presence, a moment that proved his real-ness to you, well, trust me… You’ve got nothin’.
Remember how good you are at being safe? Caution often impedes the miraculous. It’s hard to spot God if you never need him.
Somewhere between 18 and 31, you figure a few things out about faith and how to get it. If you’d like a head-start, here are a few things you should know:
Use it or lose it. Faith, that is. You’re in the best physical shape of your life right now. But soon, you will know what happens to muscles when they are not used. Ever. They get squishy and puny. They get lost. Like, literally, you won’t be able to find them. Faith is no different. You want your faith to grow? You have to do things that require it. You have to work it out. Your cushy life right now does not require faith. When was the last time you prayed fervently for God to intervene in miraculous ways? When was the last time you NEEDED Him? When was the last time you cried out to your Father and saw Him SHOW UP? You will. But not until you …
Stop trying to be so Christian and start trying to be more like Christ. Hang out with the outcasts instead of the in-crowd. Be proud of your unpopular opinions instead of worrying about fitting in. Be more concerned with saving souls than saving seats on Sundays. Stop judging people for their decisions and start walking alongside them and urging them on. Your goal is not to be the best Christian in the crowd but to show the crowd more of Christ (Spoiler Alert: You are not him).
Get uncomfortable. Holy comfort zones, girlfriend. You are the reigning queen of comfort. Have you ever noticed growth doesn’t occur on the peaks? You never see vegetation up there on the snow-caps. All the good stuff, the green and hearty stuff, happens down in the valleys. Lean into the uncomfortable. Let God undo you. And if you start feeling comfortable again, find a way out. Comfort is the Enemy’s home for you. Don’t let him steal your growth.
Trust the hard. Sometimes you completely bypass the uncomfortable and head straight into the hard. All those doubts you have about your faith will be answered in the hard. When the only explanation is God’s hand coming down from the heavens and injecting his goodness into such badness, the hard becomes a breeding ground for trust, depth, submission, vulnerability, and surprisingly, joy. You will not become You until you’ve hit the hard. God will not really become your God until the hard.
Before I go, because I know your 19-year-old heart, let me leave you with a little bit of love. You don’t right now, but I want you to know in your bones that you are exactly as you should be. Don’t insult your creator by wishing he’d made you any differently. Trust him. You are beautifully and wonderfully made for a specific purpose in his kingdom. Pursue that purpose passionately.
Oh, and watch out for leeches in the Frio River this summer. Not a good look.
Your Older, Wiser, More Boring Self,
Jordan and I went to that same Christian university. That’s how I know her. I remember we had a journalism class together and for some reason we were all reading our writing out loud. I don’t remember what we were writing about but when Jordan read hers, I remember thinking, “Wow, she’s a good writer.” I’ve loved following her writing over the years. She is one of those writers who can write about motherhood and still relate to those of us who don’t have kids. That’s skill. Be sure to check out her blog today where she is hosting an English Lessons giveaway!
Jordan and her husband, Clark, live in Sealy, Texas, with their three kids, ages 5, 4, and 2. She is a math teacher turned stay-at-home-mom and blogs about faith, family, and where the two intertwine at jordanharrell.com.