To My 20 Year Old Self,
Hi. Do you have any idea how much potential you have? No, you don’t; I know because I was you 17 years ago. Let me enlighten you a bit from this side of 35, sweet girl. God has wired you uniquely, hand-crafted your personality, your talents, your intelligence, and your creativity for a purpose. Please, don’t get hung up on what that purpose is right now or how it will play out throughout your lifetime. Please don’t let it paralyze you. Please don’t lie awake at night fretting over whether or not to change your major or whether or not you’ll be able to get a job when you graduate or whether or not you’ll ever get married.
Stick with what your prayers and your gut are telling you for now, for today and trust God with the future. Concentrate on your character right now more than your path. “The second half of a man’s life is made up of nothing but the habits he has acquired during the first half,” (Dostoevsky). In the meantime, don’t pretend that you have got it all figured out, even if people expect you to. Yes, your future may very well include things like a successful career, marriage, motherhood, influence, ministry and more; but it may not look anything like what you imagine those things to be right now – and that is a good thing.
A successful career might be that position at the law office downtown or a low paying job that pays the rent and finds you doing something that you never knew you were made to do. Marriage might mean a white wedding dress followed by 50+ years with a godly man or perhaps remaining loyal to God and God alone for the rest of your days. Motherhood may include bringing up sons and daughters who come into your life through childbirth or adoption, or it could look more like mentoring girls and boys younger than you or foster-parenting for a season. Influence may involve writing that book that everyone reads and raves about or it could be displayed more quietly as you devote time and attention to the handful of special people God puts under your care. Ministry may involve travel and large crowds and the salvation of many, or it may be quietly holding the hands of those who no one else notices and introducing them to a Savior you’ll never be sure this side of heaven if they completely accept.
Whatever lies ahead for you, rest assured, IT IS GOOD. It is so good, that you can’t imagine something better, no matter how hard you try. You can’t make it better by worrying about it now either, so don’t bother. God is the one who makes it good and His work in your life isn’t dependent on your planning or fretting or manipulating your situation. It is only dependent on your obedience. Walk with Him. Trust Him. He knows the way.
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV. Believe Him that this is true, even when things are hard.
“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 ESV. Trust that He knows your heart better than you know it yourself.
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105 KJV. Learn to love God through relying on His word, the Bible. It is relevant and it is breathtaking.
“The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?” Proverbs 20:24 NLT. Don’t be afraid to ask God “Why?” when you don’t understand the detours, but be willing to accept and keep moving forward when he answers with “I’m not going to tell you right now.”
Above all, commit to laying all of your plans and hopes and dreams at His feet on a regular basis. Some of them He may one day give back to you, wrapped in his beautiful grace. Others he will discard, because of His infinite mercy, replacing them with something that He desires you to have even more. Either way, you will have your treasure – a life of meaning and purpose, and a relationship with the God who planned it that way from the beginning.
Last week, Jason and I made our first drive ever up to Niagara Falls, NY. The drive from Central PA up to the Falls passes through mostly rural areas with small towns and a few factories, and lots and lots of trees. One of our favorite pastimes as a couple has been going on factory tours, and we have been known to stop on the spur of the moment and tour a factory that we noticed a sign for on the highway. On this drive up to Niagara, we drove through Bradford, PA - Home of the Zippo Lighter. You better believe we pulled over immediately!!
There was no factory tour, but there was a museum with lots of really intriguing memorabilia. The item that captured my attention the most was in a section of the museum that was highlighting Zippo's "no questions asked" restore or replace guarantee. Under glass they had an original letter written by a Colonel in the U.S. Army during World War II. One of the men in his outfit had been killed in the line of duty. The soldier's body was badly disfigured and there was nothing left of his personal effects to be returned to his family other than a damaged Zippo lighter. The Colonel wanted to return the Zippo lighter to the soldier's widow as the only keepsake that he could offer her, but he didn't want her to have it in such a mangled state, fearing that it would remind her of her husband's suffering before his death. He wrote to Zippo and asked them to please repair or replace the lighter so he could return it to this young widow. They did so. I have tears in my eyes as I imagine the compassion of that Colonel, who certainly went above and beyond the call of duty in caring for the family of his fallen soldier.
This week, I taught the last in a series of Women's Bible studies in my church about "When Life is Hard." At the end of our lesson, I asked the ladies to write a letter to a non-specific friend experiencing trials, sharing with her what she had learned during the study and encouraging her in her time of hardship. After we had written these short letters, we read them aloud in small groups. Again, tears.
When we take the time to carefully write a letter, to reach out to another person, to go out of our way to notice them and connect with them, it is a beautiful thing. In this world of quickie emails, jotting things on facebook walls, and tweeting; let's not forget the impact a heartfelt, handwritten letter can make.
Carla Ritz. Proof positive that God uses cracked pots!