1 Thing I Wish I Knew at 18
A good family friend* is turning 18 soon and I was asked to share a word with him. But I figured why not share it with you too?
And so in the same vein in which I shared What I wish I had Known when I was 9, Lies I Believed when I was 13, and What You Should Know by 16, I share the following counsel as if I was able to send a letter registered time-travel mail to my 18-year-old self (because there was no email back then).
Dear Mike the High School Senior,
In truth there’s a lot of things I wish I had known when I was 18 (and you), but in this quick note I only want to share one.
And when I say “1 thing I wish I knew” I really mean one thing I “actually believed, embraced, and wholly trusted in.” Because knowing a thing will only impact you as much as you believe it.
For instance, you’ve heard that pornography is something you should avoid. That is to say, you “know” it is bad for you. And yet, though your opportunities to access it are few and far between (because the internet hasn’t yet been invented), you will pretty much indulge in pornography at every opportunity you get. So that kind of “knowing” hasn’t done you much good.
In contrast, you have believed with all your being that drugs and alcohol will get you nowhere (nowhere good anyway) and so you never so much as entertained a fleeting thought of indulging.
That’s the kind of “knowing” I’m talking about, when I say there’s just 1 thing I wish I knew when I was 18. And so here goes:
You are loved to love.
And yet there’s so much truth to embrace in those five little words. In fact, let’s take them one-by-one.
First, when I say “you” are loved, I mean “you” personally, individually, and intimately. In other words, though you may be only one of 5.2 billion people on the planet (you will be one of 7.7 billion by the time you’re my age) Your God knows everything about you. Literally.
In fact, in Matthew 10 and Luke 12, Jesus declares that even the hairs of our head are numbered. Which for you means every single short spiky hair on the top to every long flowing hair down your back.
I don’t miss that haircut, by the way (which they will call a mullet when you’re my age), but oh how I miss that hair. (Balding is called balding at any age.)
But it’s not only what’s on our head that God is so intimately familiar with. It’s everything inside it. And everything that comes out of it. For Psalm 139 says He knows our thoughts from afar, as well as every word we speak before we say it. (If only He’d stop us from saying some of those words.)
How can God know us so intimately?
Probably has something to do with the fact that our God is infinite in every way, which would include His knowledge. Including every detail of our lives. So from this perspective, 1/5.2 billionth of his infinite love and attention is no different from 1/7.7 billionth of his infinite love and attention. Or all of it. However you slice God’s love and attention, you have an infinite amount.
Second, when I say, you “are” loved I mean it’s a sealed deal. No doubt about it. Not even a little bit.
According to John 3, God proved His love for us once and for all time on the cross. Jesus became sin so that we could be free from sin, along with it’s shame and power.
But before then, Jesus gave up his throne at the right hand of the Father. He gave up His privilege and rights as Co-Creator with the Father in order to be born into that creation as a mere mortal man. And He gave up His Father’s glory to receive the disgrace of the betrayal, judgement, and torture which led to Calvary.
Just think about all that. Do you think Jesus gave up all He did, just so He could give up on you?
You. ARE. Loved.
All this means we don’t have to earn love. And we couldn’t earn it if we had to.
If we did have to earn the love we have, it wouldn’t be love, because love by it’s very nature must be freely given and freely received.
So receive it, my friend. I mean… me.
In John 15, Jesus said His love for us is as real, and deep, and wondrous as the Father’s love for Him.
So abide in that love. Soak in it. Trust it and let it saturate and motivate your every thought, feeling, and action. Which leads us to the 4th word.
Love is not like a lake. Or even a sea. It’s like a river that flows to the sea.
In other words, love is not stagnate. It is always moving to something. As 2 Corinthians 5 puts it, Christ’s love compels us.
Love has direction, a mission, and a purpose. Which means you are loved with a direction, a mission, and a purpose. And that’s what the fifth and final word in the 1 thing wish I knew at 18 is all about.
Again, in John 15, Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so I also have loved you.”
But this love isn’t given simply to make you feel good. It’s meant to empower you to do good. And not for yourself either, but for others. For your family, friends, even your enemies. In other words, love is not for you to store up, but to share.
And indeed, you will never know the love of God like you will when you are giving it away, in the same way it has been given to you: freely, gladly, even sacrificially.
You are loved to love.
So myself, I encourage you to let this truth shape the way you end your senior year of high school. You only get one of those!
So flirt less and serve more. Groom that mullet of yours less and grow more in grace. Watch less stupid movies and spend more time in conversation with the precious friends you have. And don’t be afraid to take a friendship or two a little deeper.
Then you can leave for college knowing not merely that you stayed out of trouble, but that you sought to love those troubled souls you went to high school with. Many of whom have absolutely no idea of the love of God. And understand this: after graduation, you will never see most of your high school peers ever again. So live before them and love them like that.
And then take this truth with you to college and determine that you will make the best friends of your life. (You will anyway, by the way, but if you go truly embracing this truth, I can’t imagine how much more fabulous your… ah… our college years will be.)
Oh, and speaking of love, you’ll meet your wife at college, but don’t worry about finding her. Just seek to grow great friendships with guys and girls alike and it will all come together. You’ll see.
Love you, man.
I mean dude.
Your 48-year-old self
[*Of course, I pray these words of wisdom empower MANY 18-year-olds to understand and walk in healthy relationships, but happy birthday, Simeon! This post is for YOU!!]
DNA: It’s What’s For Dating
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