Ever wished you’d known something before you stepped into it? Many times, I’m sure.
But there’s a problem with knowing things before we step into them. If we knew what we were about to step into we would never step.
Thirty years on from the time I was 19, there are some things I wish I’d known back then. The trouble is had I known now what I wish I’d known then, I would not have had the tenacity to do the ensuing thirty years.
God knows we need life to be a mystery, or we would never do what He is calling us, through our lives, to do. It’s like getting near the end of any journey; at precisely the same time we feel as if we’ve come too far to give up, yet we may feel we cannot take another step. Then we experience the exhilaration of having achieved something.
At 19 I wish I had have known:
1. That life doesn’t ever get easier, and although there are easier seasons, life tends to get tougher the older we get. This is okay if we’re accepting of such a reality and are committed to growth – growth in many ways as a survival mechanism, where thriving is the only way to survive. God knows we can do it. Our hope is that one day we will find out it was perfectly worth it.
2. Once we have children our susceptibility to vulnerability doubles overnight. They can be taken from us. They don’t enjoy it when we’re doing a good job of parenting. They are work, work, work, which wears us, parents, down. And they leave the nest. Finally, when most of the hard work is done, they cease needing us (which we recognize is bittersweet).
3. Some of the most painful life tests occur in our twilight years. What compounds this is we can fall for the temptation, that, because we’re in our twilight years, we’ve got our stuff sorted. But we never do. Humiliation can seem fitted more to those of advanced years than those of youth. And that’s a hard truth to swallow. Humiliations as a youth were hard and possibly traumatic, but I’m sure they didn’t shake me to my core as they do when I’m older.
4. Despair is a real thing. It teaches us deeper truths about hope, but despair must still be endured. At nineteen I didn’t endure anything without escaping. And escaping seemed to work… until it no longer did. At least I know now that, in bearing reality, there is no need of escaping – a Christ highlight.
5. Christ. I wish I’d known Christ like I do now. I would need to wait another four years to be converted, but it was to be another seventeen years before I would really receive His Spirit. Before I was 36 I was an escape artist. Though I had many fond experiences, it was a waste of time, and that life was ultimately taken from me.
6. Human nature. I wished I had known about the reciprocal nature of humanity, that we get what we give. I wished I also had known the unpredictable nature of humanity, that we often don’t get what we deserve – both in good and bad ways. Justice is patchy in this life. That’s a wisdom I could have done with thirty years ago.
7. Memories. Their importance. We don’t record what we really would wish to preserve. And we may preserve that which we need no record. The older I get, the more I wish I could time travel. I have less need of knowledge (in a knowledge age!) because I have experience, which I think is more. Precious experience loaded with precious memories that are hardly retrievable in the computer speed I would wish to have them.
8. Soon my body and mind won’t work as well as they once did. What a shock this is! I cannot do that which I once took for granted. My body has the aches and pains of an athlete, yet athletic pursuits are largely a thing of the past. Since burnout in 2005, my brain is wired differently. I’m a linear thinker when life seems to demand I be a multi-tasker. The older I get, the less instantly pliable is my mind. I reflect well, but instinctive responses are a weakness. But at least my mind knows how to deliver what is in my heart. I know how to care for people. I had no need of caring for others when I was nineteen.
Maybe it’s good we don’t know what’s ahead of us.
Steve Wickham holds Degrees in Science, Divinity, and Counselling
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