This year I turned 35.
When I was a teenager, thirty seemed ancient. But as I crest the hill of my mid-thirties, I can assure you I won't be picking out a retirement home any time soon. I'm just getting warmed up. In fact, my thirties have been some of the best, most fruitful, most fun years of my life. I don’t have life all figured out, but God has taught me some valuable lessons since high school graduation.
Whether you are heading back to school in a few weeks or you turned your tassel long ago, I think you’ll find that these are truths you can take to the bank because they are deeply rooted in the timeless Word of God (the ultimate school for knowledge and wisdom!).
- God’s promises are true.
- He really does have a hope and a future for me (Jer. 29:11).
- The college, major, and career I pick don’t define me. I am not my work. I am a child of God.
- Marrying a guy who loves Jesus really, really matters.
- Parents are pretty cool. Their rules are for my good.
- Being the prettiest or most popular girl in school matters for about half a second after graduation. In contrast, being the kindest girl in school gets remembered well past your ten-year reunion.
- You will look back at pictures of you and think you were stunning. Trust me.
- Insecurity is a massive waste of time and energy. Be confident in God’s love.
- “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Prov. 16:9). It’s okay to have a ten-year plan, but there’s a 100% chance God will interrupt it. That’s a good thing.
- The bands you listen to in high school will be your very favorite bands forever. Keep the t-shirts. They will be “vintage” and awesome when you’re thirty.
- You truly do reap what you sow. I love how Nancy Leigh DeMoss says it, “You are what you’re becoming.” Do you want to know your Bible frontwards and backwards later? Study it like crazy now. Do you want to be more like Christ someday? Be more like Him today.
- Broken hearts heal. Mine got broken often in high school. All these years later I’ve still never felt a pain like it. But those deep chasms are now all healed up. If your heart is broken, I promise it will heal and someone else will capture it someday.
- Start saving money now. I know that top at Anthropologie is super cute, but it’s also crazy overpriced. Imagine dropping that $75 in a savings account and using it for something lasting like a car, an education, or a child sponsorship. Most people think they will start saving “someday.” I wish I had developed the discipline of saving money as a high school student. While we are on the subject of money . . .
- Start tithing. The Bible calls all believers to tithe regardless of income. So, if you have an allowance, a part-time job or babysitting money, you have an income. Everything you make belongs to God, but there are tremendous blessings to be found in giving a portion of it back to Him. Don’t wait until you’re rolling in the dough to start tithing.
- The world doesn’t revolve around me. That’s a good thing.
- Champion others as often as possible. Instead of wanting everyone to cheer you on, figure out ways to cheer them on.
- Normal is a mirage. Embrace your weirdness.
- I know that boy gives you butterflies, but that won’t carry you through the ups and downs of life. Find someone who loves Jesus (remember point #4), but also someone who is fun to talk to and knows how to cope when the going gets tough. Then, when you least expect it, the butterflies will start to flutter in your tummy once again. Fourteen years after I married my high school sweetheart, I still get butterflies.
- I’ve never met someone my age who is glad she partied in high school. Ever. I’ve met lots and lots of them who regretted it. There is no long-term benefit from that scene.
- You don’t need a bunch of friends. You need one or two who’ve really got your back.
- Worry less about having the right friends and worry more about being the right friend.
- Be picky about your friends. The Bible says it this way, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Prov. 13:20). Pick wise friends. Since Proverbs 9:10 tells us that the fear of the Lord is where wisdom begins, wise friends need to be Jesus-loving friends.
- Don’t be afraid to fail. Stand up in front of the class and give that speech. Try out for the lead role in the play. Start a club. You may fall on your face. You may not. But at least you went for it.
- You can do big things for the kingdom now. Don’t wait to get involved in ministry.
- Your parents don’t need to be your friends right now. They need to be your parents, and that means they make and enforce the rules. The good news is, they will likely be your friends someday. Right now God has given them the job of being in charge. Do everything you can to make that job easier.
- Find something you are good at and enjoy it, but don’t make it your whole life. Soccer is supposed to be fun, not stressful. So is singing, sculpting, and playing the saxophone.
- It’s okay to miss practice for church. In fact, church trumps activities every single time.
- Sometimes it’s cool to love Jesus and not the Church, but Jesus loves the Church. If there is something that could be better at your church, then get involved and make it better instead of complaining or checking out. The Church is the Bride of Christ.
- Your youth pastor is not your connection to God.
- “The things of earth will come to pass, only what’s done for Christ will last.” That’ll preach.
- When you get your license, it’s a license to drive, not a license to do stupid things. I know because within a few weeks of getting my license, I got caught racing on the highway and wrapped my car around a telephone pole. I drove dumb so you don’t have to.
- When you do something stupid to impress someone, it’s still doing something stupid, and it likely won’t impress them as much as if you did something smart. Do the smart thing instead.
- Your siblings are cooler than you think. When you’re thirty-five, they’ll be the people you want to grab coffee with.
- Nothing good happens after curfew. Go home.
- “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting” (Prov. 31:30). Since outward beauty cannot last, spend your time growing a beautiful heart.
Visit ReviveOurHearts.com/35lessons for a special locker art graphic of "35 Things I Wish I'd Known in High School," and give it to a student who's heading back to school.