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Today’s my birthday! I was really looking forward to the start of a fresh year, and then my youngest spark plug came down with a stomach bug…before the previous flu we were recovering from had even fully left our house. Spending the day with a fussy little one was definitely NOT the way I had planned on celebrating.
While I would give almost anything for him to feel better (and for this not to spread to anyone else!), I started thinking about how dearly I tend to hold onto my plans and how devastated I often am when things go awry. Although I’m a little more flexible now than I was a decade ago, going with the flow is still a daily struggle for me.
And that got me thinking about the things I wish I had learned sooner in life. In fact, there’s quite a bit of advice that I would have loved to gleaned before now. So, instead of visiting my extended family as I’d originally hoped, instead, today, I’m sharing my best advice to my younger self.
Learn to be flexible
As I mentioned above, I wish could tell my younger self to be more flexible when plans change. Even now, I tend to get so caught up in my plans that it absolutely derails me when things fall apart. This is especially true when illness hits. I don’t like being sick and don’t cope well with sick kids (understatement), so I really struggle when someone comes down with something.
If I could, I would tell my younger self not to stress out as much when plans change or a virus goes through the family. This, too, shall pass, and plans can always be rescheduled for later on. One time, my brother and his family were on vacation to Disneyland when my nieces contracted a nasty cold/flu. They simply headed back home and returned a month later. This is the kind of flexibility I need to cultivate!
More importantly, I would remind my younger self that nothing surprises the Lord. He allows everything that happens and can use all things for the good of those who love Him. Even if the situation itself isn’t good, He can still produce good from it.
Don’t forget grace
For much of the time when the spark plugs were little, I felt as though I needed to prove to others that God’s method of marriage and parenting actually worked. I thought that a perfect marriage and perfectly-trained spark plugs would somehow inspire unbelievers to believe that God really did know what He was doing when He gave us specific commandments regarding marriage and parenting.
But the problem is that while I was striving for perfection, I was forgetting about grace. And a life without grace quickly descends into a legalistic lifestyle that is very self-dependent. I got frustrated when my kids acted like kids. I got irritated when it seemed impossible to be the Godly wife I so desperately wanted to be.
I was placing on myself a burden that the Lord never intended me to carry. We will never be perfect until we reach Heaven. And we certainly will never be perfect by trying to become so in our own strength, which is exactly what I was attempting to do!
Slowly, through lots of prayer and studying Scripture, I’ve learned to let go, be more understanding and forgiving, and to simply do my best for the Lord and not to worry what the rest of the world thinks of me. If I could, I would tell my younger self to focus solely on walking in the Spirit instead of my own strength and not to get sidetracked with others’ opinions.
(Note: if you’re struggling with perfectionism, grace, and carrying burdens we never were meant to shoulder, I highly recommend Grace For the Good Girl. I resonated with so much of what this book discussed and think you might, too.)
Realize that you might suffer for doing good
Jesus clearly tells us in the Gospels that we will suffer for His sake. So why I found it surprising to suffer for doing good, I’m not sure. For some reason, I thought that if I were obedient to Scripture, everything in my life would go smoothly. This isn’t what the Bible teaches, but it’s what I used to think.
Suffering for doing good took me by surprise. Not everyone understands my desire to follow Biblical principles. When people would wrongfully accuse me or think me simple-minded because of my faith, it would catch me off guard.
If I had the opportunity, I would tell my younger self to be prepared to suffer for doing good. I’d talk about how suffering would probably come when I didn’t expect it, and that sometimes, the suffering would come from a person I least expected.
But I would also tell my younger self that even though Christians suffer here in the United States, we are still completely blessed to live in a place where Christianity is at least somewhat tolerated. That these little bits of suffering we endure are nothing compared to the suffering that other Christians around the globe are facing. That what we endure here really is a light and momentary affliction. That God is still on the throne, and that He sees, knows, and cares about His children.
Remember that God is limitless
During my adult life, I’ve been in a few tight financial situations. I would pray and ask the Lord to provide, and then I’d try to figure out the various ways He would take care of me. I usually developed two or three scenarios that seemed likely, and then I’d sit back and wait to see which of my methods He’d opt to use.
Although the Lord did, indeed, take care of me each and every time, not surprisingly, He never once selected one of my dreamed-up options. He wasn’t limited to my finite imagination. He had ways to provide that I could never have dreamed of in my wildest imagination. And He always selected something so incredibly amazing that I couldn’t help but grow in my awe at His power.
My last bit of advice to my younger self would be this: remember that God is not limited by anything, by anyone, or by any set of circumstances. He has ways and means of which we know nothing. He is creative and all-powerful. He is loving, tenderhearted, and kind. And He will provide for us, though His provision probably won’t look anything like we expect it to. Even if we suffer for following Him (see point 3 above), our reward in Heaven will be worth it all.
(Note: to learn more about God’s limitlessness and His attributes, I’d invite you to visit the 31 Attributes of God series here on the blog.)
If I had the opportunity to give my younger self my best advice, I would remind myself to learn flexibility, to remember grace, to understand that I might suffer for doing good, and to realize that God is limitless. I’ve struggled to learn these four important lessons, but they are paramount to living a Godly life!
Your turn: What advice would you give to your younger self and to those who are coming up after you?