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5. Brokenness is the doorway to wholeness. This mysterious paradox was hidden from me at 21. I feared brokenness. I ran from it, and when it got too close fought it off with all my might.
If I had but known brokenness was the key to my healing, it would have lifted such fear from me. I thought it would maim me at least and maybe even kill me. Now I know that there is very little real wholeness that does not emerge from real brokenness.
6. Truth is liberating and devastating. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” My friend Jamie tacked on, “But first it will make you miserable.”
How true. There is a phrase popular among many young adults that I quite like despite my usual distaste for pop jingoes. It is, “Keep it real.” I am not sure of all that is meant by it, but I know what I mean by it.
I wish I had known not to fear the truth about myself. I wish I had known that the temporary misery of the truth was worth going through to find the freedom that it brings.
7.Learning is greater than education. I am a university president, and Oral Roberts University (ORU) is a great university. I am not saying that higher education is unimportant. What I am saying is, I hated getting educated.
At 21, I was a miserable college senior. I was a miserable student from the first grade right through high school and on through three degrees. I was miserable because I did not understand the connection between education and learning.
If I were 21 again, I would still go to college. But this time I would go to learn not just to graduate. I would unleash my curiosity, embrace the process, worry less about my grades and enjoy learning.
How strange that I love to learn at the age I am now. I read voraciously—any subject. I want to know, to understand, to go deeper. If I were 21 again I would take that to college.
8. Giving is sweeter than gaining.I believe in the laws of the harvest. If there is any place in the world that understands “seed faith” it is ORU. Seed faith is not a new idea to me. I believed it at 21. I practiced it and am blessed today because it is real.
Yet I wish that at 21 I had known the sheer joy of giving. I know God will bless us when we give, and sometimes we have made this merely a method to gain. I wish I had realized the joy of generosity. I would have given more and delighted more in the good that giving does and less in the returns it provides.
9.Forgiveness doesn’t fix everything. Not the happiest truth I wish I had known, but it’s among the most sobering. Had I known this I might have been less callous, less reckless and more mindful of the cost.
There are things, relationships and hearts that once broken cannot be fully “fixed” by forgiveness. The wound, the uncaring and insensitive word—they may be forgiven, but the damage from them may never quite be right again.
When I was 21 I just wanted to be forgiven. I wish I had known to do less damage.
10. Prayer is more powerful than persuasion. In all of life, at every age, conflict is an inescapable reality. I wish I had known younger that in conflict and crisis talking to God works better than talking to people. At 21, due perhaps to youthful arrogance, I thought that I could talk my way through everything.
Self-sufficiency, a dangerous habit, breeds prayerlessness. The older I get I find that crisis drives me faster to my knees and more slowly to the phone.
I have seen God turn hearts around, change organizations and melt opposition by prayer alone—when no persuasive speech could have made a difference. If I were 21 again, I would spend more time talking with God and less (far less) persuading others to do what I want.
I wish I had known more than I did at 21. I might have considered one or two of these truths, but I doubt I wouldhave fully appreciated their value.
I do not think I want to be 21 again. But if I had to, if some evil genie made me go back and live it all over, then these are the things I would want to know and the things I would want to believe.
Mark Rutland is the author of 13 books. He also leads a missions and church-planting organization, Global Servants.
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