Hello there! I’m so glad you’ve decided to join me for today’s blog post, because today just so happens to be my birthday. 😀 I think it’s so cool because I was born on a Wednesday, and now that it’s on a Wednesday again, it aligns perfectly with my posting schedule. But anyway, welcome, and I hope you’re ready for some awesome reflections on what God taught me while I was sixteen.
First of all, it’s crazy to think back to my 16th birthday because we were still living in a normal world! I went to the DMV for my driver’s permit maskless and clueless as to what was to go down just a few days later. I had no idea what was coming, but it makes me smile to think that God knew all along. He knew all the lessons that I would learn over the course of quarantine, and He knew right well the person I would be today, just a year later. In some ways, it’s amazing to think that it was just a year ago, but then I look at how far I’ve come–as an individual, as a friend, as a writer, as a Christian–and it’s amazing to see all that God has accomplished in such a short amount of time. It makes me excited to see what He’s going to do in the year(s) to come!
I acknowledge the fact that seventeen is still quite young and I’m still quite inexperienced (I haven’t even seen my college dorm yet), but sixteen was filled with so much growth and goodness. Sixteen was the year I genuinely came to an understanding that I must know who God is before I can ever know who I am. Both through the goodness of God and through the kindness of my friends, I have found a personality and a voice that is me.
For so long, I let myself compare my life to the lives of others. I falsely believed that my identity was in my goodness, and that if I wasn’t good, then there was something fundamentally wrong with me. Instead of looking up to people in a healthy way, I set them high above me on pedestals and imagined them looking down on me. There is such a significant difference between learning from mentors and being condemned by the elites. Everyone is in a different place on their journey, and we shouldn’t shame ourselves for not being further along. God walks beside each and every one of us as individuals, and He is faithful to walk us through personally.
I let myself embrace the labels the world had placed on me (or that I had placed on myself), and as a result, I saw myself as quiet, insecure, awkward, weird, closed off, beyond reach, you name it. But my friends and I had some very real conversations over the course of 2020, and as I became more comfortable around them, I became more comfortable being myself. For once, I didn’t feel the need to change–I was accepted as I was.
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “you don’t really know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes,” or something similar. Let me just say that I appreciate that so much more now that I’ve experienced being sixteen. Because it’s true. What people show on the outside is not what really happens at night when they’re lying in bed alone. There are some parts of a person’s life that we will never see until we establish a safe place with that person. There are prayers of brokenness and tears of pain that we will never fully understand until we feel them ourselves.
But the beauty of that is this: God has already walked in our shoes. He has already experienced life on earth, and the pain and heartache that comes with it. He knows what it is to be human.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.Hebrews 4:15-16
You yourself have recorded my wanderings.Psalm 56:8
Put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
And you know what? Those feelings do not make us weak; those feelings make us strong because we can never know victory until we have first stepped foot onto a battlefield.
We can overcome the enemy with confidence, because even in our weakness we are strong through Christ. I have never before understood so clearly what Paul meant when he wrote to the Corinthians:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Corinthians 12:9-10
What would love mean to us if we never knew rejection?
What would joy mean to us if we never knew suffering?
What would peace mean to us if we never knew anxiety?
No one would ever choose to walk through 2020 again, and if I’m being honest, there were moments of being sixteen I’m glad I don’t have to relive. Life is a learning process, but I’m so glad for all that I’ve been taught. As Charles Spurgeon said, “I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me against the Rock of Ages.”
It is only because of our brokenness that we experience true wholeness.
It is only because of our loneliness that we appreciate genuine friendships.
It is only out of our depravity that we recognize our need for a Savior.
God always has a reason for the valley we’re walking through. He’s slowly but surely pruning us so that we may bear fruit to the full of our potential. But it is only by abiding in the Vine (Christ) that we can fully come to terms with our circumstances. We are merely branches, and nothing we do on our own is of any worth. Unless we are connected to the Source, we are powerless and condemned to confusion.
For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.1 Corinthians 14:33a
We see things in a new light when we allow God to open our eyes. We can make more sense of the situations we face when we know the Reason for it.
Now, that doesn’t mean we’ll always have all the answers. Far from it. What it means is that even when we don’t know the why behind it, we trust that God has a purpose and that He is faithful to fulfill His promises. We don’t let the unknown bother us, because we are looking to the One who holds the future. When we take our eyes off the problem and instead focus on the Promise-keeper, the problem shrinks and our God grows.
The first step to being a fruitful Christian is to recognize our capacity to bear fruit. We can’t do it on our own. We must first learn how to attach ourselves to the Vine, and learn our identity as a Branch in need of pruning. We have to assess our situation and give up control before we can move forward. It must first be real to us in our minds and our understanding before it can become our tangible reality.
But, once we’ve discovered who Christ is and who we are, the next step is to actually bear fruit. Good works are the result of a heart posture of faith and surrender.
My word for the calendar year is “fruitful,” and my plan for seventeen is to be just that. God has done a lot of heart and mind work, so now I feel that He’s ready to lead me in ways that demonstrate that.
Once we find our security, we ought to walk in it.
Once we find our identity, we ought to remain true to it.
Once we’re rooted in Christ, we ought to bear the fruit of the Spirit.
I’m excited to look for opportunities to do that, and to demonstrate that I truly am in Christ. I know that whatever is to come, seventeen is going to be a great year.
Sixteen was great, but I am convinced that seventeen will be even greater.
In Christ now and always,