Advice to My 13-Year-Old Self
Recently, I was given the honor alongside a few other adults to offer “wisdom for life” to a special young man who was turning thirteen. This young man’s Dad, wanting other adult voices to come alongside him in the passing on of wisdom, arranged this moment for his son. Following are some of the words I shared — but this time revised, expanded, and addressed to my thirteen-year-old self from my current self.
Hey there, it’s me, a much older version of you. I’ve lived most of my life now, and see the world much differently than I did when I was walking in your young shoes. Even though your body language says that you’re not interested in the things I am about to share with you, I know that on the inside, you are secretly eager to hear what I have to say. So here goes.
1. You cannot be everything you want to be. You want more than anything to win Wimbledon someday. In just a few years this dream will change, and you will want to become a pro basketball player. You are going to try with all your might to accomplish both. But neither is going to happen. You will never even come close. But I have some good news for you, Scott. You can become everything GOD wants you to be, and that’s something one-of-a-kind and special. A very successful businessman named Steve Jobs will one day say, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” I want to tell you that this is excellent advice. The best gift you will be able give to the world is to be God’s best version of Scott. And the great thing is that when you discover who God wants you to be — that version of you who will one day lean on Jesus as your only hope in life and in death, and who will discover that his greatest accomplishments will not be the ones that make a name for himself, but the ones done in love — that person is so much more than you will ever be able to dream up on your own. Lean into this, and start as soon as you can. You will never regret this, young man! You are fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together with purpose and intention by God. Be that person, and no one else! See Psalm 139:14.
Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.
– Jeremiah 6:16
2. Being humble and kind is always better than being popular or cool. Scott, you spend so much time worrying about what other people think of you. Out of this deep, even desperate desire for others to like you more, you sometimes say and do things that make you like yourself less. I want to tell you that you don’t need to do this…ever. In fact, you shouldn’t. Being humble and kind is always better than being popular and cool. This is especially true when being popular or cool involves being something other than humble and kind. Over time, it’s those who are humble and kind who, funny enough, end up being the most “popular” people around. If your main goal is to get other people to like you, fewer people will actually end up liking you. If, on the other hand, your main goal is to treat other people with dignity, honor, love, respect, and kindness, you’ll be one of the most likable people around. Scott, please remember that having friends will occur most naturally when you seek to be a friend to others and when you are intentional about being approachable and loving toward everyone, just as Jesus — a true Friend whom you will discover later on in your life — is approachable and loving toward you. See Matthew 5:3-11; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Galatians 5:22-33.
Humility is a form of awareness from the context of other-centered-ness. It is having an accurate assessment of your own nature…It is understanding yourself in the context of a greater divine order. Knowing you are not the center of the universe and you need redemptive assistance to complete your tasks…It is self-awareness in the context of other-centeredness.
– David Brooks
Be kind, for every person you meet is fighting a hard, hidden battle.
3. The earlier in life you start investing, the richer you are likely to be for the rest of your life. This applies to wealth, but even more importantly to your relationships and your faith. Scott, take my word for it. The earlier you become “all in” with loving God and loving others, the more fulfilling and meaningful your life is going to be. Don’t wait until you are all grown up. Don’t believe the lie that God is for older people, and fun is for younger people — as if God and fun are incompatible. They are not! In fact, the truest fun happens when you are at peace with God, for to be at peace with God is to be at home in your own skin, and therefore happy. Start now! Jesus said that even little children ought to come to him, for the kingdom of God belongs to them. How much more should you, as a young man, devote yourself to doing the same. The only wasted years are those we spend unmindful of the One who loved us and gave himself for us. “Remember your creator in the days that you are young.” See Ecclesiastes 12:1; Colossians 3:14-17.
The wealth I have won in my life I cannot bring with me. What I can bring is only the memories precipitated by love. That’s the true riches which will follow you, accompany you, giving you strength and light to go on. Love can travel a thousand miles…Cherish others.
– Steve Jobs
God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
– C.S. Lewis
4. Never forget how loved and important you are. Scott, you are worth so much that Jesus gave his life for you. And? You are a special gift from God to the world. I know you don’t feel that way right now, and that you have never felt that way. But one day, you will begin to discover it, and it will make all the difference. You matter. I pray you will one day learn this, and then never, ever forget it. See Genesis 1:27; Zephaniah 3:17.
The whole concept of the Image of God is the idea that all men have something within them that God injected…This gives him a uniqueness, it gives him worth, it gives him dignity. And we must never forget this…there are no gradations in the Image of God. Every man from a treble white to a bass black is significant on God’s keyboard, precisely because every man is made in the Image of God. One day we will learn that. We will know one day that God made us to live together as brothers and to respect the dignity and worth of every man.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
I’m cheering you on!
And I’ll see you in 37 years.
Your 50-Year-Old Self
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