I think it’s kind of funny how as we get older, while most of us begin to need glasses, in many ways we actually begin to see life more clearly. There must be a good reason why I didn’t know in my twenties the things I know now, things that would have helped me make better choices, sounder decisions. I mean we make some of the most pivotal decisions for our lives while we still know relatively little. We decide on a career path. A mate. We buy cars, open credit accounts, and choose a college, and so on; all things that impact our lives and all during a time that we know so little about much of anything. Sometimes those decisions work out well for us, and sometimes we spend years undoing the damage.
I wish I had known early on that life is not about any particular destination. It’s not about crossing a goal line and dancing in the end zone, it’s about the trip to the end zone. I used to think to myself, life will really get good when I finish college, or get married, or find a great job, or have kids. Early in my life, I did a lot of end zone dancing, but I missed a lot of the joy as I moved down the field toward my goals.
I wish I had known early on that life is less about what you do and more about with whom you do it. I happen to enjoy my work most of the time. But I know now, that the tasks I perform on the job, while those tasks are temporarily important, pale in comparison to the eternal tasks I am put here to accomplish. What is she talking about? It’s about the people, not the task. You are where you are as a believer because there is someone you are supposed to influence… or someone who is supposed to influence you.
I wish I had known early on that conflict in relationships can be healthy. For most of my life, I have crossed the street if necessary to avoid conflict or confrontation. I have finally learned that an unwillingness to sort out conflict or to confront someone is more about me than the other person. I have also learned that to manage conflict well means a healthier relationship in the end. Did you know that the goal of confrontation should always be that the person leaves feeling better about you and about themselves? Just like the Holy Spirit, we confront because we love, which brings me to the next thing I wish I had known early on.
I wish I had known that I cannot be the Holy Spirit for someone else. I cannot convince someone of anything on a spiritual level. I know. I’ve tried, and I have learned that I do more damage than good. I cannot change a person’s heart, and I can do so much harm by trying. Most of the time when we try to change people, we use shame or guilt. But the Holy Spirit doesn’t have to stoop low like that. No, He uses truth like only He can. Only He can remove the scales that cloud vision and allow a person to see.
I wish I had known that instead of spending so much time asking God to change someone else, I should have been asking Him to change me. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years telling God how someone else should be treating me and asking Him to change them. It’s really pretty funny. We can ignore most of the change He wants to make in us if we concentrate on asking Him to change them. After all, they are the problem, not us. Right?
I wish I had known that joy trumps happiness. In our country, we are afforded the right to life, liberty… and the pursuit of happiness. But happiness is fleeting. It’s like that little blue butterfly I used to chase through my grandparent’s corn field. I would chase that beautiful thing for hours, and just when I thought I had it… off it would fly, out of my reach. So the pursuit went on. Happiness comes and goes, and so often it is just out of reach. It is dependent on so many different things. We rest our happiness on the shoulders of others. (So unfair) We rest our happiness on circumstances. (Unpredictable) But joy? Now joy is not determined by others or circumstances. While things often stand in the way of happiness, we can have joy in spite of everything.
I know a lot now that I didn’t know early on, and life is a bit easier these days in some ways. As I get older, my eyesight is slowly going to pot, but my vision? My vision is clearer all the time. I bet yours is, too! What has a little godly wisdom taught you that you wish you had known back then? Share it. Let’s sharpen our vision together!