21 Things I Have Learned About God, Myself and Life

Today, March 3rd, I am blessed to turn 21 years old. For many, this simply means being able to order that strawberry margarita you have always wanted to get at Applebee’s but couldn’t until now. For some, the number 21 is just another year of life and another step to growing up. For others, it's a good excuse to throw a big party in honor of having reached the much desired number 21. For others, this day was never reached. For me, today is a day to reflect on, not only the past year of my life, but everything that has led up to this day.

I never really thought that reaching 21 was such a big deal. So many important changes and experiences have already happened in my life that I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. It is just as important or unimportant as any other age or birthday I have had. Turning 21 today, I have been thinking about the people who I lost in the process of being 20 and turning 21. I think about a friend who lost her life in the summer doing what she loved and never reached the age of 21. I think about my family member who met a terrible fate at the hands of terrible people in my home country. I think about the broken friendships and my first broken relationship from which I am still healing from. 

If I had been writing this 10 months ago, 8 months ago, one month ago, my writing would be full of bitterness, anger, hurt, confusion and misunderstandings. I found myself wrestling with conflicting feelings a lot this past year. When I look back at them now, I have a new perspective. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I have come to notice my personal struggle in not only believing IN God, but believing God. My faith and trust in Him was tested and I saw my own weakness in the core foundation of my life, Jesus. Many times I found myself thinking there was no way God still loved a sinner like me and that I was no longer worthy of Him. I had regrets with many decisions on the way to 21 and I felt myself lost and confused: asking God what the purpose of the hurt which I would have been just fine without had become part of my daily routine. I decided I did not want to keep blaming God and others for my own insecurities, problems and lack of faith. 

I reflected on the entirety of these past 21 years with which God has blessed me and I understood that everything I had gone through had made me into who I am today and had strengthened my relationship with Jesus. What had been horrible for me, God had turned into a crucial and beautiful part of me: the lyrics of a song I hold dear replay in my head, “you’re beautifully broken and you can be whole again. Even a million scars doesn’t change whose you are. You are worthy.” I have been repeating these lines of the song in the past weeks as I heal from a broken relationship and they have never felt more true. It is through the difficulties I have that I see myself face to face with a different, better Emily aged 21. 

I wanted to share 21 things I have learned this past year and throughout my life that have given me a different perspective of God, myself, and our relationship as He fulfils His purpose for me.

 

  1. God does not trust me. This may sound negative at first glance. I know I was confused when I first heard it come out of my pastor’s mouth at church. But after he explained what he meant, it actually made a lot of sense. Believing that my sin makes me unworthy of calling myself a daughter of God is me being prideful. By believing this, I make my relationship with God a compromise, where He becomes a God that asks for many things in return for our relationship. God doesn’t trust me to be able to reach the standards of His holiness; He understands my flesh is weak and meets me where I am at. 

  2. I have more self-righteousness in me than I would like to admit. It is always all about me. What I want, what I feel, what I am going through. I am so blinded by my sense that the world revolves around me and only me that I miss out on the blessings in my every-day life. When things do not go my way, I blame others and blame God for not looking out for me when in reality, Him saying no to something always turns out to be for my own good.

  3. I have no idea when it comes to knowing what I need, even though I would like to think I do. This ties back to the previous paragraph. I can’t seem to stop myself from thinking that I know exactly what I need, when I need it and why I do. This hinders my relationship with God because I question Him when I do not get what I think is right for me instead of trusting Him and His plans.

  4. It’s okay to fall apart, even when I thought I had it under control. I experienced my first heartbreak earlier this year and I grew very impatient with myself and God. I wanted to heal in a matter of days and when I kept hurting I blamed everyone except myself: I blamed the guy and I blamed God. I couldn’t see past my hurt and my feelings. Now I have learned that God is not in a hurry and neither should I. Healing is messy, but in all that mess I have been able to experience God in different ways and see how strong He has been making me.

  5. Forgiving myself is harder than I thought. I thought once I was able to forgive others I was done. Turns out, sometimes the guilt and shame I feel stops me from forgiving myself and extending that grace and forgiveness God has given me for others to myself.

  6. Social media takes up too much of my time. I went to a retreat with my church in February and in order to prepare our hearts for what God had for us at the retreat, we fasted social media the entire week before that weekend. It was then that I realized how much of my time was consumed by me scrolling through Instagram. I also realized that all this wasted time was keeping me from meaningful things such as human interaction, taking in my surroundings, praying, reading my Bible, the list goes on.

  7. Loving those who hurt me is a process I am still learning. Showing kindness to someone who hurt you (sometimes more than one way) has been really hard for me this past year. Looking past what they did is so hard that I sometimes felt I wouldn’t be able to do it. I realized that giving God my negative feelings and surrendering control to Him was what I needed to do. My human capacity to love would never be able to do so, but God’s unending and amazing love can!

  8. Intentionally seeking God and other people does not come easy. Small talk is simple for me when someone approaches me for the first time. Intentionally seeking others and encouraging them, not so much. I reflected on a lot of my relationships with family and friends and saw how God was shining light on the superficiality of many of them. I began to seek people with more intention and longing to really know them and bond with them. The only way I can long for these intentional relationships is to also seek God intentionally and have Him help me reflect this unto others.

  9. How others perceive me does not/should not change my own perception of me. For someone who has always known that my identity is in God, I struggle a lot with other people’s opinion of myself. I find myself falling back into the “people pleaser” category way too often and I have been doing my best to change that. When I ponder on what someone said of me or that nasty look someone gave me in class, I stop and remind myself that these factors do not change who I am. It’s a constant struggle, but one that can be slowly fixed.

  10. My parents really do want the best for me. Ever since coming to college, I have developed an incredible amount of respect towards my parents, especially my mom. In high school I thought that I possessed a lot of respect for my parents: college has shown me that I doubted my parents’ good intentions when they said no to something I really wanted. Now, as I grow older, I realize that my mom and dad truly have been looking out for me for all 21 years of my life.

  11. If my terrestrial parents want the best for me, how much more my heavenly Father. I recently came across the Bible verse of Matthew 7:11, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” When I begin to doubt God’s plans for me, I recall this verse and His promises to give me hope and a future.

  12. Some days I just can’t stay positive and that’s okay. I used to get really upset on those days when I couldn’t seem to have a good attitude or feel happiness. I have learned that it is okay to have days when you just aren’t feeling joy. The only thing I would recommend is telling those around you how you feel so that they do not take it personal: you also do not want to hurt the feelings of those you care about. Believe me, they will understand if you explain and give you the space you need.

  13. I am scared of changes in life. Recently, I have been going through a lot of changes in my life: from personal to academic to health aspects of life, everything seems to be changing nowadays. All these changes have me feeling anxious and scared most of the time, but I do my best to take it one day at a time and face those fears. At the end of the day, I know God is in control.

  14. My three first years of college are a blur. You know when upper-classmen tell you that you have to make the most out of your college years because they fly by and all you can think is, “Omg, four years is so long. I have time”? Well, they really do go by too fast. I blinked at SPOP and turned 21 immediately afterwards. I don’t regret anything, but I can’t believe how fast time has gone by.

  15. Every time I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone, I have witnessed miracles. I strongly believe that miracles happen and I have seen them in my life numerous times. Most of these times have been when I have stepped out of my comfort zone and challenged myself in multiple ways. I know it is hard to do so, but God has taken care of me and shown me His power through those moments!

  16. Feelings are very complicated and humans just make it worse. Feelings themselves can be very ambiguous and therefore complicated, but we tend to make it worse. I am the first to say that I overthink way too often and way too much. This has caused me always make my feelings unnecessarily complex and because of this, I have pushed people away.

  17. Living my best life looks different than others but that’s okay. Throughout my three years of college I have encountered people with different definitions of what living your best life looks like. For a long time, I thought I had to follow what they were doing in order to prove my life was well lived. Until the day I realized that it was okay to have a different definition. When this happened, I became truly happy.

  18. My future career plans change and go back and forth a lot. Sometimes I want to become a teacher, other days I am set on working for a publishing company. Like this, I have spent some time going back and forth between the career options I have looked into. I thought this meant I was indecisive, but it just means I still have to figure out what I am truly passionate about and that is okay.

  19. Despite what I would like to think, I still have a lot to mature on. I would like to think that I am a mature 21 year old at all times in life. However, the number of instances where I catch myself being an immature little brat have me wondering just how mature I actually am. There is still much work to do for me!

  20. The importance of surrounding yourself with good people is immeasurable. I was very antisocial all through high school and have thankfully broken out of my shell in college. Thanks to this, I have been able to realize how crucial it is to surround myself with good friends and thank God for how blessed I am to have them all in my life!

  21. God is good all the time, even when my human perspective can’t see it. When I feel like everything is going wrong in my life, the hurt is too much, the people around me betray me, I realize that I still have God. He is good to me in more ways than I can keep count of. The very fact that I have been able to turn 21 years old today is enough of a blessing to be grateful to Him. I have absolutely no reason to be upset with God. Thank you, Lord, for all the blessings.