Dear Younger Me,
Slow down. Soak up life’s richness, physically and spiritually. Your existence is worth more than a mad scramble for stuff and success. Be still. Know God. XXOO, Older Me
Next to relationship advice, that’s been the second biggest theme for what many of you would love to to tell your twenty-year-old selves if you could.
Grant R. said, “Spend your money on experiences, not stuff.”
Linda H. said, “Before you make your To Do List, spend some quiet time with the Lord.”
Dena Douglas Hobbs (pictured above) said, “I remember starting my 20s being consumed with what I was going to DO, but I ended them working on who/what kind of person I was going to BE.”
In fact, Dena’s comment intrigued me because she’d become a pastor as a young adult and now has her own writing ministry. Since pursuing her calling with intensity and focus has been pretty important, I asked her what it was like rushing full speed into “doing” for God back in the days of grunge bands and flannel. Enjoy her story below and check out her devotional book through the affiliate link that follows.
See that lovely flannel clad picture above? That was taken on my now-husband’s/then-boyfriend’s 21st birthday as we road-tripped into the Appalachian foothills of North Georgia. We spent the drive up deep in conversation about what we were going to do with our lives after college.
Even though I was only twenty-one, I was in my last semester at the University of Georgia. I had fast tracked my studies by going to summer school and taking heavy loads.
I was in a hurry to get through my undergrad experience as I had places to be and things to do.
Or so I thought.
I had even applied and been accepted to seminary by then. I had received a call to ministry, and that call felt so important that I was racing as fast as I could to fulfill it. In my mind that meant attending seminary, getting ordained, and beginning to pastor, ASAP.
I could see the road to fulfilling my call laid out before me like that highway into the mountains: Go to school. Pass this test. Jump this hurdle. Finally arrive at the destination where you can do what God has called you to do.
I actually would go on to climb the mountain of tasks before me in record time, and I would start my ministry in the church at only twenty five years old.
However, twenty-five-year-old me would come to realize I had raced so fast up the mountain I forgot to finish becoming myself along the way.
I had spent so much time focused on what I needed to DO that I forgot to think about who I wanted to BE.
Church ministry became my crucible. As I sat at the bedside of dying parishioners and held their hands, I realized they didn’t care how fast I sped through seminary. They wanted someone to reassure them God was with them until the end and beyond. Was I strong enough in my own faith to look death in the eye with them and claim this?
After one year of ministry I felt myself struggling with the answer, but our kind, merciful God threw me a lifeline. My minister of music told me about a retreat center nearby that was teaching a class on Centering Prayer, a practice of existing silently in God’s presence for a set time, being still and knowing He is God (Ps 46). Something in my soul told me I desperately needed to learn this.
For the next nine months I sat before God’s presence for twenty minutes every day and did nothing. I simply existed in the light of God’s love. Somewhere along the way I realized this was the most important twenty minutes of my day.
It turns out that when God called me, He wasn’t calling me to DO anything. He was calling me to BE somebody.
I was learning to be God’s child. To be that version of myself that is so open and present with God that God-light fills me up until it spills out to others, whether they’re celebrating their 21st birthday or breathing their last breath on earth.
If I could go back to the girl in the flannel shirt on the mountaintop, I would tell her to stop climbing so fast. Take time to sit and soak up the God-beauty and God-light around her. Worry less about what she was going to DO and focus on who she would BE.
I’d also tell her this:
Be a good girlfriend to that curly headed guy in the matching flannel. Show up in your life and share who God made you to be with everyone you meet. Be a good friend. People need you, not what you can do for them, but who you are. God shines through you in a way that is unlike anyone else. Being you is not only enough: it’s the most important thing you can do.
More About Dena: After serving as a minister for several years in the United Methodist Church, Dena is now a raiser of children, blogger at denadougashobbs.com, and author of the advent devotional Lighten the Darkness: An Advent Journey Through Hope. Dena writes about finding ways to restore our souls in the midst of this busy, messy, beautiful life.