There are markers in our lives that represent significant events or sometimes just the passage of time. There seem to be a lot of those for me, in particular, this year. My youngest son just turned 18 and graduated from High School. My middle son, this spring, became the first of my children to get married. This fall my wife and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage and 30 years in ministry. I will also turn 50 this year! It seems like a good time for reflection.
These years have been called middle-age by some, but not many of us live to be 100 so that's a little bit of a misnomer. My father passed away at 62, so who knows? Regardless, the time seems right to look back at what I might have done differently, so that some following behind might learn from my mistakes, which are many. What would I do differently if I had it to do over again?
I would have had pre-marital counseling. This would have saved my wife and I a tremendous amount of grief. It's amazing to me that the 19 year old version of myself thought that he knew so much, and how little he actually knew. I made a lot of mistakes as a young married man. Thankfully, I married an understanding woman who believed in me and in the institution of marriage, and stuck with me through those growing pains.
As someone who officiates at a lot of weddings, I have made it a policy not to perform a wedding without first providing premarital counseling. I make sure to cover the purpose of marriage, communication, finances, worldview and whatever other issues arise. It's a lot of work, but I feel a lot better about performing the ceremony.
I would have found a mentor (or mentors) as a young man. There were different people who spoke into my life at different times, but I would have been much more intentional had I known the difference it would make. I have learned through discussions that many men feel the same as I felt those many years ago - lost. They are thrust into a world of responsibility for which they are not prepared and forced to sink or swim. It's by the grace of God that most of the mistakes I made didn't have serious repercussions. Having a mature mentor for advice would have saved me a lot of problems.
I would have stayed out of debt. Financial problems are a major source of strife in marriage and life in general. Much of the problem is the easy availability of credit and a lack of understanding of the consequences of getting in over one's head. I readily admit that I had no idea what I was doing when we first got married. It takes only a short time to rack up debt and many years to climb out. I'm glad it wasn't worse, but we certainly could have done better. I highly recommend Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University to everyone. If I had known the principles he shares in this course when I was younger, I would have been spared a world of grief.
I would have gone further in school. I have made a commitment to be a life-long learner. I read, attend conferences, take courses, etc..., but I regret not spending more time on a formal education. Although they say it's never too late to learn, the best time to do that is when you are young and your mind is a little more elastic. Investing in the right education will pay off down the road. I suggest starting with the liberal arts until you find your passion; then focus on it.
I would have asked more questions. When you don't know, assumptions are the enemy. It would have been great to have had Google way back when! My repair jobs would have been a lot more successful. Information is power and the best way to get information is to ask the right people the right questions.
I would have spent more time with my father. There are some opportunities that we can't get back. Don't miss out on the chance to spend time with people you love and tell them how you feel. The day will come when you won't be able to do that.
All in all, so far it's been a great ride. My biggest lessons learned are these: life can be hard, but God is faithful. The best decision I ever made, as a seventeen year-old kid, was to commit my life to follow Christ . I'm so very thankful that I did.
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