As I sat through my daughter’s graduation ceremony last week, I wondered what I would say given the chance to speak to a room filled with graduates.
I don’t wish to be 18 again. I’ve earned my stripes. I have no desire to relive those years, but I do wish someone would have sat down with me to tell me some important things about navigating life.
So here I am, and here you are, whatever your age, and I’m willing to share a few things that I’ve learned after 30 years in the game of life.
- What you do today matters tomorrow. Life is made up of moments and it matters what you do with your moments. Want more money? Small seeds of work today bring a harvest tomorrow. Want to do new things? Spend your moments learning and asking questions so you can be ready for new opportunities. Want to live for things that matter? Invest your moments in people. Jesus said that what matters most are things that last forever. There is an old saying, “If you chase two rabbits, you won’t catch either.” You get to choose, but you have to choose. Too often we waste today, rather than invest in tomorrow.
- Do hard things. The things you think will kill you really do make you stronger. Often we give in to fear, apathy, or laziness because we look for the easy out in the moment. Even pain, as much as we try to avoid it, shapes us forever. Trust God in the process and live with the end in mind. Living for the short run will always cost you in the long run.
- Be Kind. The world has no shortness of hostility and anger. Proverbs 11:16 says “A kindhearted woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth.” Do you want influence in the world? It starts with earning respect…which starts with kindness. So many bridges in relationships are burned forever in a moment of anger. I realize kindness sounds almost absurd. Be willing to be absurd, but more importantly, be kind by extending grace to others. You’ll need your own fair share of grace to get through life.
- Develop the discipline of delaying gratification. More people than either of us can count are up to their eyeballs in debt or trouble because they never learned this one. The world will make it easy to buy or have whatever you want but always remember there is a pay day. For everything. An old proverb, “A man without self-control is like a city without walls.” Self-control protects you from imploding personally. Learn to delay desires and it will bring you great freedom.
- Protect yourself from bad things. My husband teaches often on avoiding three things: bad images, bad company, and bad ideas. If the people you hang around don’t bring out the best in you, you’re probably with the wrong people. If the things you look at in your virtual world are keeping you from fulfillment and intimacy in your real world, you are being robbed of life’s greatest joys. If the ideas that you build your life on don’t answer the biggest questions (origin, meaning, morality, and destiny) and hold you secure when the storms of life come (and they will come), you better start asking better questions. Choices have consequences-good or bad. Your life will be the product of those choices.
- Embrace adulthood. The latest research reflects that more 18-34 year old’s are living with their parents than ever before. (PewResearchCenter) Want a great life? Learn to embrace adulthood early–even if you don’t have to– because it will go a long way in bringing freedom to live out your dreams. Few of us get to the end of our lives wishing we had wasted more of our time. None of your friends doing it? Be the one to start a trend. Your mom will be happier, too, when she doesn’t have to feed you or see your carcass lying on her couch daily.
- Wield technology responsibly. No generation has had so much information available to them. Anything, even good things, out of balance can cause problems. Your generation has to answer the question: how much is too much? Build healthy boundaries that protect you. Make technology useful for productivity and relationships. Whatever we worship will rule us. And one good rule: If you wouldn’t want everyone in the world to see it , especially mom or your boss, don’t post it.
- Remember your history. I’m not talking about middle-school. You were created uniquely with purpose and design. Take a minute to stare at the wonder and uniqueness of your thumbprint. There’s no other like it in the universe. We were created to be part of a bigger story than just our story. That’s why we crave adventures that will last forever. We were designed in the image of God to know and enjoy Him forever. It’s nonsensical to think of life without God in the mix. You were made to be an image bearer, so it helps to get to know the One you were created to reflect.
Remember these 8 things while you fight the causes God puts in front of you. Hopefully, you can look back some 30 years from now and smile, remembering all that life and God and mom has taught you.
And never forget this: The world does not revolve around us, but was made to be impacted by us.
You have this time. You have this opportunity. Be who you were born to be.
Congratulations to the Class of 2016!