A singing-bird was confined in a cage which hung outside a window, and had a way of singing at night when all other birds were asleep. One night a Bat came and clung to the bars of the cage, and asked the Bird why she was silent by day and sang only at night. “I have a very good reason for doing so,” said the Bird: “it was once when I was singing in the daytime that a fowler was attracted by my voice, and set his nets for me and caught me. Since then I have never sung except by night.” But the Bat replied, “It is no use your doing that now when you are a prisoner: if only you had done so before you were caught, you might still have been free.”
Precautions are useless after the event.
– “The Cage-Bird and The Bat”, a fable of Aesop
I am not sure where the quote originated, but it has been said that there are five things that can not be taken back: a stone after it is thrown, a word once it is spoken, an occasion once it is missed, an action when it is done, and time once it has passed. Aesop summarized these truths well in the fable above; it is far better to exercise wisdom sooner than later…before it fails to make a difference.
We are entering into a new decade…starting with the year 2020. This brings to my mind the words I have heard time and time again over the course of my life: Hindsight is 2020. A phrase people often use in a sense of regretful remembrance, “Hindsight is 2020” simply means that we often don’t see the consequences of our choices clearly until after we have reaped them. “If only I knew then what I know now”, we all think at one point or another, “I would have done some things differently”.
Of course there is no use dwelling on our past missteps unless it is to grow and learn from them. But how can we help those younger or less experienced than ourselves to avoid following the wrong path; from making the same poor choices many of us have made? This month I have asked myself again and again: what advice would I give to a younger me? What would I tell her so that she would step wisely in her youth?
This article is my answer. Today I share with you 20 things I would tell myself 20 years ago…
*note: for the sake of space saving, the Bible verse associated with each point will be in parenthesis with a direct link to the passage. To get the most out of this lesson, I would encourage you to read each one as time allows!
#1. Find Your Action
Make the most of the time you have been given. Plan for the future, but don’t live exclusively in it. Life is happening right now. Hone a skill, invest in a hobby, learn new facts…don’t just survive – thrive in the season you are in. (Proverbs 4:25)
#2. Find Your Admiration
Consider those in your life who most closely emulate God, and watch them closely. How do they react to negative treatment? What do they do in the face of temptation? How do they spend their time? Strive to mold yourself after their exemplary behavior. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
#3. Find Your Adoption
Get close to your Father in Heaven. Pore over His word and get to know Him with all your heart while time is on your side. Strengthen your bond with Him by praying continually. The relationship you build early will help to sustain you through later seasons of busyness. (Ecclesiastes 12:1)
#4. Find Your Appreciation
Gratitude is an important virtue in the life of a Christian! Be thankful for the things you are given, as well as the things you already possess. These things may be material items, or they may be blessings in your life that are invisible to the naked eye: such as God’s grace, the love of family and friends, a sound mind, etc. We aren’t *entitled* to any of these things, and we should feel, show, and verbalize appreciation for them often!
#5. Find Your Caution
For every good and honest man, there are 999 tricksters waiting to deceive you. Don’t fall for every line some cute boy whispers in your ear…let the fruit of a guy’s actions speak for his character, and consider the advice of wise counselors who notice red flags. (1 John 3:7)
#6. Find Your Conviction
As you mature, it is vital to be building your own faith instead of borrowing your parents’. Don’t merely take someone else’s word for what the Bible says…study it for yourself and make sure your life matches up to what you read in the scriptures. Even if you have to step out alone, do the right thing and follow God with total fervency. Ignore the naysayers. (Luke 14:26)
#7. Find Your Devotion
Be a person who is all in with commitments. Whether it comes to our relationships with friends and family, our attitude towards the church, our attitude towards our jobs, or most of all, our relationship with the Lord; if we have a true-blue, faithful spirit, our rewards will be great. Those who possess an unfaithful spirit burn every bridge until they are at last alone and miserable. Those who endure hardships and stay true to the end will find light at the end of their every tunnel. (Psalm 31:23)
#8. Find Your Discretion
Secrets divulged are not soon forgotten, and people who know too much can form powerful weapons against you. Even a well-trusted friend can mishandle information when pressed, so it is often best to have a level of mystery when it comes to matters of great personal importance. Give your deepest, darkest secrets to God…His knowledge of you is enough.
#9. Find Your Education
Consider what you really want to learn, and go for it! Not only do young brains retain the most information, but those in their youth often have more time to dedicate to learning. Maybe you want to learn to play an instrument, or speak a foreign language, or how to cook, or play a sport. Whatever it is that intrigues you, take the time to educate yourself…you may learn a skill that will be a joy to you for years to come.
#10. Find Your Emotion
Teach yourself early what is and isn’t worth getting upset over. Discipline your thoughts to accept circumstances less than your ideal. Plans will be cancelled. People will hurt your feelings. Dreams will fall by the wayside. We can still choose joy and rise above the pain of the moment.
#11. Find Your Fiction
Read, read, read. Good, wholesome books will build character and leave a lasting impression on your psyche long after the cover is closed. Books open our mind to the world of valor and virtue, helping us rise to the heights of our favorite heroes from tales tucked away in our heart forever.
#12. Find Your Identification
It’s easy to get wrapped up in what everyone else thinks about us, to the point that we are afraid to show any originality and end up following the herd. If we are talking about matters of opinion (not matters of sin), grow a backbone and be yourself! Whether we’re talking about taste in music, books, movies, clothing, hobbies, art, etc.; express yourself and don’t worry about what the “popular crowd” thinks of your style. (Romans 14:5-6)
#13. Find Your Meditation
Set aside a special place for yourself to reset and recharge. Even the most extroverted person can benefit from some mindful time alone each day. It’s important to take a break from the constant influx of conversation and information (sans the electronics!) and simply think to oneself peacefully. It does a world of good for our mental well-being. (Ecclesiastes 4:6)
#14. Find Your Nation
Place an appropriate level of importance on current events and the state of your country. This doesn’t mean living and breathing politics; but it does mean exercising wise judgment in choosing our country’s leaders, and taking an active role (however minor) in keeping wickedness in high places to a minimum. (Philippians 2:15)
#15. Find Your Nutrition
Old habits die hard, and bad eating habits formed early are no exception. Learn to acquire a taste for wholesome, nutritious foods and lots of water! Be sure and allow for moderation, though…don’t be so uptight and strict that your diet becomes a hindrance to yourself and others, but make it a point to eat healthfully more often than not. (3 John 1:2)
#16. Find Your Occupation
Begin thinking early of how you wish to make a living in this world, and what you need to to accomplish in order to reach that goal. Many today change their major multiple times, drop in and out of college, and jump from job to job; merely because their effort to plan was minimal. Flying by the seat of one’s pants is no way to get by in life…take interest in your future. (Proverbs 14:23)
#17. Find Your Pollution
Be completely honest with yourself about your temptations and weaknesses. The sooner you come to terms with what’s wrong in you, the sooner you can set to turning things right. Don’t take the easy road and justify your sin, but accept what God has to say on the matter and start cleaning house! (Job 13:23)
#18. Find Your Section
Fair-weather friends are a dime a dozen, but true friends are a rare and precious commodity. A few traits of a faithful friend: one who is not ashamed of you in the presence of others, but is proud to acknowledge and include you; one who is there for you in your best times and worst times; one who is not afraid to call you out when you’re making bad choices. (Proverbs 17:17)
#19. Find Your Station
Join yourself to a local assembly of those who follow Christ’s teachings…His church. Just as a limb can not survive apart from the physical body, neither can a Christian survive apart from the body of Christ. Determine what your unique talents are, and roll up your sleeves and get to work right alongside your brethren! They need you, and you need them.
(1 Corinthians 12:18-20)
And the most important of all…
#20. Find Your Transformation
Above all else, be sure that you have been saved according to the pattern in scripture…that you indeed become a new creation for the Lord. Hear the word of the Lord, and believe on Him. Confess His name with your lips, and make your life a continual confession of Him. Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins. Nothing else matters without Jesus. He is life.
(2 Corinthians 5:17)
Don’t forget the tale of the cage-bird and the bat! As we enter this new decade, may your foresight be 2020.
May you find: Your action. Your admiration. Your adoption. Your appreciation. Your caution. Your conviction. Your devotion. Your discretion. Your education. Your emotion. Your fiction. Your identification. Your meditation. Your nation. Your nutrition. Your occupation. Your pollution. Your section. Your station. Your transformation!
I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. – 1 John 2:14
For God’s Glory,
Chelsea Bolks is a church of Christ minister’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.