Thursday, February 20, 2014

Confessions of a 21 Year Old

In my last hours as a 21 year old, I want to encourage you to not underestimate youth. You might be young and think you have plenty of time to live your life or you might wish you could go back to your younger days and change things. I've come to realize that our culture has low expectations of the impact we can have while we are young. Once we finally realize how much the decisions we make now will end up affecting us later, it's too late to go back. 

I've heard so many people talk about their teenage or college years as a "phase" they went through, and using that to rationalize rebellious behavior in the younger generation. "I was crazy when I was 21 too. Let them experience the real world and live a little. They'll grow out of it eventually." That type of thinking has been fed to us and we don't even realize the damage we're doing by not expecting more than the status quo.

These years should not be wasted. They are a gift. My perspective is that I want to use this precious time that I am given and use it for good. Youth shouldn't just be thrown away, but we should embrace these years as a time to be intentional and purposeful. I think it's important for me to speak out about this as a young person, to show that there are people out there ready to take up the torch and be a change for good in the world.

I am so thankful for people in my life, in my family and in my church, who saw potential in me at an early age, and encouraged me with opportunities to grow in my gifts. I have a strong example of leadership and my parents have supported me and my dreams. I know that not everyone has that strong family background, so I am grateful for their legacy. I have heard many stories of young people defeating the odds and making a difference in their community, by stepping out and being a voice in a dark and hurting world.

This can be an encouragement no matter what age you are. Age is just a number, and it does not determine your level of maturity or responsibility. God can use each of us in the specific situations we are placed in, to bring Himself glory. We each have opportunities that we can choose to use for selfish gain or to benefit someone else.

The problem with freedom without accountability is that we all have an innate sin nature. In and of ourselves, we cannot be good. Without the love of Jesus and the grace he has given me, I would not be who I am today. I may not be partying or sleeping around, but I struggle every day with selfishness, negative attitudes or negative self talk. I am so far from being good, but I believe that He can use me for good with His power. When I try to control things or do something in my own power, it fails miserably. I can tell the difference when I'm not trusting God in a certain situation. When I remember that He does not require perfection from me, I am overwhelmed by his grace and his peace. God loves me in spite of my mess, and He can use me in spite of myself.

I've learned a lot about expectations this past year. I've learned that I'm not as patient as I thought I was, and that my plans don't have to work out. I've found out the hard way that I should set realistic expectations on my time and my energy, and not expect to get everything done in one day. I've also learned not to underestimate God, because He has a bigger purpose planned that will blow your mind.

This year, I hope to face each day expecting God to do great things. I don't want to be held back by my age, or my own limitations. I want to continue the prayer I prayed when I was 7 years old and accepted Jesus... "God, I can't do this on my own. Take my life and use me however you want to." That's a powerful prayer, and I encourage you to ask him the same thing, and see what He does!

Remember that our youth is not a phase where there are no consequences. We are responsible for our actions and should be held accountable. In a world where everyone goes with the flow, we have an opportunity now to make an impact for good.

Our decisions now affect the future. Pass the torch.

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