Since I’ve hit my mid 20s the run up to my birthday has always been jam packed with emotion. I feel excited as to what the new year holds; all the new opportunities, experiences, adventures that I can add to my personal archive of life’s achievements. But, I also feel regret when I think of missed opportunities and things I didn’t quite achieve.
As a little girl and a teenager, I had all these ideas of what I was going to be when I was 18, 20, 21, 25, 30 etc I had ideas of where I would be in terms of my career, my relationship status, my children, appearance/ style (don’t judge), ministry, things I would own and so on. However, as I clocked 18, 20, 21, 25 what I had in mind in terms of whom and what I’d be didn’t quite match my reality.
For the past couple of years I spend a lot of time leading up to my birthday in deep thought.
I would check myself into coffee shops and other places to have some quality ‘me’ time. I would think about where I am currently, where I’d like to be and what I’d like to do in the coming year.
This year, as I reflected on my dreams, aspirations, desires and plans, this scripture continuously rung aloud in my mind and spirit:
Many are the plans in a person’s heart but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails
(Proverbs 19:21 NIV)
Having dreams, setting goals, making plans are all good things, and by no means bad. But what we must remember is that while we have a plan, God also has a plan, and ultimately it is His plan that we want to prevail. God knows our beginning and our end and what seems right now may not necessarily be the right thing or best thing for us in the long run.
During this particular period of reflection, I realised I can be quite hard on myself; quick at minimising victories and accomplishments and even quicker to maximise perceived failures. I say perceived, because a failure is really dependent on your interpretation – and I deliberately choose to see these incidents as learning opportunities instead of stumbling blocks.
I used to associate age with achievement and accomplishments.
I have resolved that material possessions, accolades, letters behind and in front of my name do not necessarily equate to success and neither do they define me! My identity is in Christ and He loves me, so much more than I’ll ever know and understand and the plans that He has for me are good and not of evil, and they are to bring me to an expected end (Jeremiah 29:11). The truth may very well be that I did miss some opportunities, I may not be where I expected to be. But I know that He causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28).
So this year as I approach my birthday (7 days exactly as I type this) I asked myself the following questions:
- Who set these so-called milestones I think I need to achieve?
- Who says I need to have X by now? Who am I comparing myself with? Is this comparison healthy? Is it beneficial to me right now? Would it benefit me in the future?
- Am I running the same race as the people I am comparing myself with? Do we have the same goals and visions? Were we created to do the same thing?
- What have I actually achieved this year? What have I learnt? In what ways have I grown?
- What can I do better this year that I couldn’t last year?
- Whose life have I impacted this year?
- Who have I helped and consequently they have experienced a change for the better?
- What does God want me to learn in this particular season or place I am in right now?
- What things can I do to get myself to where I want to be? What steps do I need to take? Am I taking them?
Life is a journey, and when we stop at each destination there are reasons to give thanks, lessons to learn and skills to develop. As cheesy as this may sound, we need to embrace each stage of life we’re in, as you know, no condition is permanent. We all have our individual paths to follow, personal dreams and unique destiny’s to fulfil. The key is to:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.
This year marked a significant change in my perception towards life and the pursuit of achievement.
I consciously decided that I want to live a full life. And by ‘full’ I mean do everything I’ve ever wanted, dreamt or thought of doing (within the boundaries of God, of course).
I attended a funeral of a very young man recently and I couldn’t stop thinking about how young he was, how much more he had to give to the world. The truth is our life is like a piece of string; as there is a beginning to that piece of string there is definitely an end. Some of us have been given a very, very long piece (by God’s grace) and others have a shorter piece. However long or short your piece of string no-one knows exactly, but The Creator. Therefore, we must strive to live each moment with so much intention, so much purpose because you could be here today and gone tomorrow. The Bible reminds us by asking:
‘How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog–it’s here a little while, then it’s gone’
It’s common for people to wonder at funerals how they would like to be remembered. Think, how would you like to be remembered?
- As a Debbie Downer, who spent most of her time comparing herself to others and wallowing in self-pity?
- As a Fearful Fiona, who always wanted to but never did because of fear she would fail, she would never be good enough, or people would judge her?
- As a Spontaneous Sally, who lived life frivolously with no plan, just doing as she pleased when she pleased?
Or do you want to be remembered as [insert your name] a game changer, a Kingdom shaker, someone who loved God, loved and served others, impacted lives, impacted their generation, someone who lived each moment carefully under the influence of the Holy Spirit, someone who saw opportunities and ceased them, and where there weren’t any created their own opportunities.
As I celebrated my birthday this year I decided this would mark the beginning of my intentional, purpose driven life. A life devoted to Christ, a life of love and service to others – and this is what I want to be remembered for.
How do you want to be remembered?
In truth and with love