God stirred my heart to ask them out to dinner to say goodbye before they left for college. I wasn’t sure they’d want to come, but still, that part was easy. It was next He quietly whispered to my soul, “You have something to give these young women, far greater than a fancy night out to dinner. I want you to tell them your story.”
Really God? I think they like me, you know, maybe even think I’m cool. That would wreck everything!
“It’s time. I want you to share your story.”
I often argue with God. I want to stomp my foot, shout and give back His “assignment”. But I’ve learned the hard way, that’s not how living a life for Him works.
“If you love me, you will obey me,” Jesus repeatedly says in John 14.
So, I planned the evening. Prayed a lot. And steeled myself to speak my story no matter the cost. And I’m not talking about the price of dinner.
That night, after we filled up on wonderful food, I held 4 darling young women hostage as I shared about my colorful past.
I told them of my family’s hardship, my dad’s alcoholism, my parent’s divorce, my underage drinking problem, my promiscuity, my struggle to feel loved, my eventual recovery in AA. They listened attentively, with tear-filled eyes.
I felt such tenderness and compassion from them, as if our roles were reversed…they the adults and me the fledgling youth wondering if they’d still like me after I spoke my piece.
They blessed my socks off. They were grateful, humble, and honest. And I think we’re even better friends now.
They even asked me for a written copy of the advice I shared. So, I figured I would put it up on the blog, in case someone else might like it too.
My 4 pieces of advice before College: (but no matter how old, you might need this today, too.)
1. Be true to who you are. Stand firm in your convictions no matter the cost.
When I first met an adorable college student named Craig, I won’t ever forget how scared I was to share with him that I was a recovering alcoholic. Would he still like me? Would it be too much for him to overcome? Nonetheless, I knew I had to stand firm. My very life depended on it. I wasn’t just someone who quit drinking for a month to try it out. I had to quit forever. Or lose my future.
Turns out that cute guy and I have been married over 22 years. I didn’t lose myself…and I didn’t lose the guy either.
2. If you never wanted to be __________, then don’t be! You can change.
Most of my younger years I remember telling myself I wasn’t going to end up like my Dad, an alcoholic who’d lost everything. I swore I wouldn’t take that path!
Until the morning I woke up in a fraternity house as a freshman in college with zero recollection of what had happened the night before. Yep. I was squarely where I said I would never be. It took me a few more months of struggle, mistakes and pain, but in February of my freshman year, I quit drinking.
This year, I celebrated 25 years of sobriety.
By the grace of God.
3. Don’t let your pride stand in the way of heeding good advice.
I’ll never forget my first AA meeting. I was 18, the man sitting across from me was about 100. Ok, he was in his 70’s but he sure felt old to me!
His wise words directly to me are some I’ll never forget,
“You might look around these tables and see people 4 times your age who have lost everything and think to yourself, I’m not as bad off as them. I still have everything going for me. But I suggest you take what we’re offering now, freedom from alcohol. Don’t wait 40 years to figure it out, because I promise you the road will be painful, and you’ll still end up here, but only if you’re lucky.”
Freedom is what I found in those rooms. And I didn’t have to be a wise old man to know it. I just had to be willing to lay aside my pride at the ripe old age of 18.
I am convinced, had I stayed on that path, I would not have the life I have today.
4. If it feels wrong…it probably is.
In my teen years, I struggled deep in my soul because I knew lying, cheating, stealing, drinking, and having sex were wrong. I was raised better. But I chose to cave to the pressures, the seeming excitement, the temporary feelings of acceptance. I knew there was a God in my life who disagreed with those choices. But I put him on the back burner.
If it feels wrong. It is.
When you are in the center of God’s will for your life, you will feel his perfect peace and joy. You won’t feel terrible, remorse-filled and guilt-ridden.
You will feel free.
Question: What advice would you give your 18-year-old self? You can leave a comment by clicking here.