The Thing I’d Tell the 23 Year-Old Me

God has given me loads of fresh revelation over the last few weeks. I understand, now more than ever, how much I don’t understand. The saying, “The more I know, the more I realize I don’t know,” rings true.

Only by the grace of God do the scales fall from my eyes. Only by the grace of God is the veil lifted.

That being said, I’ve found myself at a continual loss for what to blog about this week. Questions like, “Do you even know what you’re talking about?” and “Do you realize the weight of your words and how they can affect other people?” have been floating about in my head. 

Then, this morning, it hit me… 

I know what God’s teaching me now. I know what He’s teaching me today. And I have faith that, in due time, He’ll teach me and counsel me further. 

He’s maturing me and restoring me to wholeness. He is. I am His work, His creation. And thank goodness I serve a God who’s in the business of restoration.

That got me thinking less about “how little I know” and more about “how much He’s taught me.” 

I became a born-again believer at the age of 23, and the last six years have been a crazy awesome journey. 

I take a moment. 
I look back on my path, and wow.
Heart and soul and real, physical ground. 
I’ve traveled a long way. 
Praise God for that.
To Him be the glory.

I sit, sipping my morning coffee, and I wonder,
“What would they 29 year-old me tell the 23 year-old version of myself?”
I would tell her a lot.

This particular lesson comes to the forefront of my mind: It’s OK to be OK with people’s “mess” — sin, grief, pain, hurt, raw emotion.

For two and half years, God has been teaching me about the importance of meeting people where they are. That means, first, being OK with where they are — not being scared, afraid of, or anxious about their mess. After all, that’s where God met me — right smack dab in the middle of my crap.

Second, validating their feelings. Saying, “Wow, I’m sorry. That must really __________ (suck, hurt, make you want to cry, kick, scream, etc.),” goes a long way with people.

And third, when the time is right (aka 1. their feelings have had the opportunity to “ surface and sit” and 2. your heart posture is for them), calling them up and out of the muck… because you love them. Because God loves them. Often times, this “looks” like reminding people of who they are, of who they've been called to be. 

“Hey, I know you’re really struggling with hormonal fluctuations, but you are a woman of God who walks in power and authority.” That’s something a friend told me recently — but only after listening to me and empathizing with my struggle.

Check out the story of Job. The stock-standard teaching goes something like this: “Don’t be like Job. Don’t have a hardened heart.” But last year, God showed me a different message: “It’s OK to be OK with people’s mess. Validate, listen, empathize… and then, with a loving heart, call up.” Notice how both God and Elihu respond to Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, the three guys who were obviously not OK with Job’s grief, sin, and pain.

“Hey Job, I cannot even begin to imagine what it’s been like to lose your money, belongings, house, animals, modes of transportation, tools for work, land, property, family — like, all of your children, and your health. Your grief must be incredible. I think I would cry nonstop for years! And your friends have turned on you too — wow. They seem to think all of this happened to you because you did something wrong… because God is punishing you for something. But you are a good man. You have been a faithful servant of the Lord.” 

Feelings — surfacing, sitting.

Job was cursing and kicking up a storm. Wouldn’t you? I know I would. And I know I would need the "space" and freedom to do that. I would need the space and freedom to feel, express, and process. Then I would need the support, encouragement, and loving truth from those around me. I wouldn't, however, need their condemnation.

I’ve been one of those guys who came against Job. For years, I was that person. To some of the most dear and beloved people in my life, I communicated, “Hey, stop it!!! I’m not OK with your mess. And if I’m honest with myself, I’m not even OK with my own.”

But somewhere along the way, God revealed Himself. The scales fell from my eyes. The veil was lifted. A revelation of God’s grace came.

The revelation was His doing, you see. It wasn’t my own. It wasn’t some spiritual epiphany I conjured up. It’s always Him.

I was chatting with Jennifer Eaves, a local folk musician, at a recent Yebo Life gathering. She said, “Often times, we think it’s about how much faith we can have. But really, it’s about how faithful God is to us.” (I’m literally brought to tears as I type those words — words that’ve very recently become a reality!)

Hey there, 23 year-old me, “So much grace. So much love. So much mercy. So much faithfulness. That’s what you’ve been freely given. That’s how much God thinks you’re worth. Now… How will you respond to what He’s done? With your entire life… That’s how. Because there’s simply no other way to respond to such a gift."