41 after 41: Lessons from the Other Side of the Hill

Last year, I began the practice of noting lessons I had learned over my lifetime. I have decided to continue this habit by adding a new reflection/lesson to the list each year.

  1. Never say, “Never.” Seriously.
  2. When you know you need help, get help as soon as possible. Don’t wait. Don’t rely on yourself. Humble yourself. Reach out to a friend, a pastor, a counselor, a life coach, a parent.
  3. What you do or don’t do today will affect your life and that of others around you 20 years from now. Don’t assume otherwise.
  4. Don’t confuse believing something to be true with actually living like it’s true.
  5. Don’t buy what you don’t have the money for, otherwise you will be paying more for what you originally bought it for in the long run.
  6. God is always working things out in your life for your good, even when it doesn’t feel good.
  7. Never give up.
  8. God doesn’t waste anything — even those parts of you, or your history that you believe are useless (HT: Michael Card).
  9. Don’t let the sun go down on your discouragement or anxiety. Hope in God.
  10. It is a waste of time and energy comparing yourself with others. God made you to be you, not someone else. Learn to live your own story rather than someone else’s story.
  11. Instead of asking what might have been, or saying, “if only…,” ask what might be when you trust Christ with the life you have left.
  12. You don’t know yourself as well as you think you do. Invite others to know you and lovingly speak truth to you. The truth really will set you free, to be more fully who you were made to be.
  13. Ask yourself what you think you might regret at the end of your life. The answer may surprise you, and if it’s of God, it might be the very thing you ought to focus on right now.
  14. Don’t think more lowly of yourself than you ought to think. Don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought to think. You were made in the image of God. Jesus gave his life for you.
  15. Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without great difficulty. Things worth doing are worth working at doing. Work hard. Do your best. Rest when you need to rest (HT: Plato; John Piper).
  16. Don’t miss or refrain from an opportunity in life because you feel inadequate or you fear what others might think of you. That’s exactly the point. Faith in God grows when faith in God is exercised. You will never be adequate or sufficient for the task. God’s grace in Christ is sufficient for you in your weaknesses. Trust in him (HT: Grant Ailie).
  17. Do not fear to try something because you fear failure. The real failure is not having tried at all.
  18. When you see someone being bullied or treated unjustly, be bold and stick up for them. You will not regret it.
  19. Doing something because you are pressured by your peers (or your own deceitful heart) is never worth it.
  20. Honor your parents. They are not perfect, but are flawed like everyone else. Give them grace. Give praise where praise is due. Take ownership of your own baggage.
  21. A significant yet underestimated aspect of the Christian life, motivation, and mission is remembering. Remember who God is, what he has done for you in Christ, and what he promises to do for you because of Christ. We are called to remember. We are warned to not forget. Cultivate habits that help you remember. Put away habits that cause you to forget.
  22. Friends come and go, but Jesus is always with those who trust in him.
  23. Where you invest your love, you invest your life. And you might not love what you think. An unexamined [love] may not be worth [loving] (HT: Mumford & Sons; James K. A. Smith; Plato)
  24. The opposite of love is indifference. To be indifferent, or passive about the cracks in the foundation of your life or in your relationships will not make the cracks go away. They will worsen and devastate you if not repaired. (HT: The Lumineers; Jonathan Edwards; Paul Tripp)
  25. Take care of yourself first so you can then take better care of others (spiritually, physically, emotionally, etc.).
  26. Safety, security, and certainty in this life are illusions. God alone in Christ is the ultimate, infinite, and unfailing safety, security, and certainty.
  27. Be mindful of your own assumptions and expectations in your relationships. If unspoken, they will certainly cause an unnecessary rift between you and the other.
  28. Don’t wait until the perfect life scenario to start having kids. You will be waiting a long time.
  29. 10 years of using a smart phone and being a part of online social networks has shown me I can do what “needs to be done” no matter where I am, and connect to people I had never thought possible. But because of these technologies I can easily neglect the most important things and the most important relationships. Use it wisely and responsibly. Put it away when it’s time to love, talk to, and interact with a real, living, breathing human being right in front of you.
  30. There is more reality in the Bible than I can see in the stories I often tell myself.
  31. Bigger, better, faster, more beautiful, and [insert next appealing description to capture your heart] is always overrated.
  32. Life is a happiness project. What are you working on? Will it last? If not, neither will your happiness.
  33. Marriage is not primarily for you but the other, and ultimately about the Other. And all of this — to be enjoyed together.
  34. Changing careers or vocations does not mean a change in identity.
  35. Life is a series of waiting sessions — meant for building your character and faith.
  36. We are always listening to someone, and thereby being influenced by them. Always be asking: Who are you listening to? How are you being shaped by this influence? Who or what should you be listening to instead?
  37. Everyone has a mission, or is motivated by something or someone greater than him- or herself. When this mission seems like it’s failing or being thwarted, we’re disappointed. Why not live for the greatest mission on earth — that for which we were made and redeemed (HT: Jonathan Dodson)?
  38. We tell ourselves stories in order to live. Yet, most of the appealing stories we tell ourselves are fiction, and will inevitably lead us to a terrible ending. There is one story we ought to live by, one story to continually tell ourselves and one another — that is, the story of redemption, the story of God’s mission (HT: Joan Didion; Chris Wright).
  39. “There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.” ~ David Foster Wallace
  40. Question yourself.
  41. The older I get, the less expectations I have of the world. The less I assume I will be satisfied by it. I’m on a short journey—not toward the ultimate salary, home, or family. I’m on a journey home to be with Jesus and his saints in the new world to come.