I enjoy telling people that I am 23, soon to be 24 years old – just for fun! People always laugh because they know that I have 8 children and my oldest is already 22. The reality is that I enjoy youth, and though my body tends to remind me that I am 44, I still live with the vision and energy of a young person.
I was blessed to be raised in a godly home, attend a Bible-believing church and solid Christian School. Looking back, I have so much to be grateful for! I got involved in activities and programs that still impact my life today. Relationships and habits formed in my youth also greatly influenced me.
There are things, however, that I wish I could change or do over if I were to relive my youth.
For those of you in your teens or twenties, you may find my list below helpful to you as you navigate through these exciting, yet challenging years of your life.
Having arrived at 44 years of age and looking back at the years of my youth, here are some decisions I am so glad I made:
I chose to respect and honor my parents. I didn’t rebel against what they wanted me to do or the lifestyle that they chose for our family. This one is huge and is the first commandment with a promise! Besides the blessings of choosing to honor your parents, there is such power in the testimony to your future children that you responded to your own parents in a respectful way. I believe that is one of the most important ingredients you can take into raising a family.
I gave my heart and life to the Lord Jesus Christ in my youth. By far, this is the biggest decision I ever made. Although I had times of not walking closely with the Lord, I have no scars from the consequences of a life of sin and immorality – praise God!
At the age of 18, I made a commitment to the Lord that I would go anywhere He called me. I had no clue that commitment would involve living in three different countries in full time ministry, but I have no regrets!
I plugged into my church in my youth! This one is huge – our churches need young people involved in the local body. There is no way you will ever regret this, even though your church may not be perfect.
I got involved in ministry in my youth. My family did some singing together, which got us into churches and prisons. That was a great taste of the joys and blessings of ministry. I also did some singing with other youth in my area, and we often went to a local prison on Saturday evenings.
Our youth group took a mission trip to NYC. That week of sitting under teaching on evangelism and witnessing door-to-door was very stretching and helped me catch a vision for evangelism. That was huge in my life!
I asked a lot of different men for advice. I learned all I could from men who were ahead of me in life and modeled the character and vision that I wanted.
I pursued ministry rather than wealth. When I look back, I can see how God was always faithful to His promise in Matthew 6:33 – seek first His Kingdom and righteousness, and trust that your needs will be taken care of. The temptation is to switch this order, but I am grateful that I didn’t.
If I could go back and do the years of my youth over again, here is what I would do differently:
I would make it a regular practice to spend time in God’s Word first thing every morning. I did not make this a priority during my youth, and I wish I would have made it a habit when I was younger.
I did not do a lot of reading until later into my twenties. I have learned so much from reading good books – I wish I would have started reading much earlier in life. The saying “Readers are leaders, and leaders are readers” is true!
I wish I would have had a mentor earlier in life. Since a mentor is ahead of you in life, he knows the types of questions and struggles you may face and can speak into your life in a positive way. Having a mentor can be a good experience for anyone at any age.
I wish I would not have gotten so caught up in following collegiate and professional sports in my youth. This has become a weight in my life that I have continually dealt with.
I wish I would have paid more attention to my giftings earlier in life. I knew that I loved to speak. But because I also enjoyed music, I never pursued learning the skills of communication until I was much older.
I wish I would have poured more time and love into my younger siblings. Although I didn’t have a bad relationship with any of them, I certainly didn’t invest in them as I could have or should have while I was still living at home.
I wish I would have viewed my teens and twenties as a time to prepare for the future. While God definitely guided my steps, I could have done a much better job of intentionally preparing myself for life.
There you have it – choices I am glad I made and some I wish I would have made.
One last word of advice: view these years of your youth as a time to prepare for your future. Don’t waste these years or spend them foolishly. Rather invest them in a way that will impact your life for further service in building God’s Kingdom!
|Rick Rhodes is a communicator, author and ordained minister. He has served fifteen years on the foreign field, as a missionary pastor in Grenada, West Indies, and as Administrator and Instructor at the Institute for Global Opportunities in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In December 2017, Rick and his wife, Renita, along with their eight children, moved to Reading, PA, where Rick serves as an evangelist and continues to write and develop resources. You can view his resources at www.rfamilyministries.org|