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Reassessing, Twenty Years On

By October 21, 2015 No Comments
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Last week, as part of a visit to another campus where I was the guest chapel speaker, I did a dorm event with a group of about forty women students. They peppered me with a range of wonderful questions—one of which really stood out to me: what do you believe now that you didn’t in your 20s?

I thought it was such a good question that I posed it on Facebook; here are a few of the answers I received:

Most circumstances in life, both good and bad, are much less permanent than they seem–and far more complicated.

Death will happen.

First, I believe in miracles. I believe that every person has a lesson for me. I believe in relationship more than possession. I believe that struggle, hardship, pain and distress should never be wasted. I believe in the true depth of my mother’s and my heavenly Father’s love after holding my child for the first time. I believe in a loving God’s wrath after surviving my teenager. I believe in forgiveness and second chances. I believe a person’s character is revealed by their treatment of animals. I believe love triumphs even on the darkest of days. I believe in tiny houses and big gardens. I believe the best love grows from respect and patience not chemistry.

You can be an artist ANYWHERE and make a difference….

If I had known what I do now, I would have worried less along the way. Life is ridiculously short and it goes by way too fast.

You can change your mind and you can trust yourself more than you think.

1) wear the sunscreen – wrinkles and blotchy skin can be avoided. 2) things are rarely black and white. gray is sometimes the more mature, harder, faithier thing. 3) be okay with being uncomfortable – whether it’s taking up running or sharing your soul with another. that’s how you grow. 4) have a question or two to ask anybody (where’d you grow up?) and you’ll meet all sorts of interesting folks: most people like to tell you about themselves. 5) you may have to learn some lessons over and over and over. 6) learn to embrace the tension between past, present and future and the tension between hanging on loosely and trying to improve. 7) accept grace. it’s the. best. thing. going. ever.

“Life isn’t fair. It’s just fairer than death, that’s all.” In my 20s, I thought that was just a funny line in a book (and movie).

In my 20s I believed the line between right and wrong was thick and black. Now in my 30s that line has grown blurry and grey and I believe even the best of us are capable of doing right as well as terrible wrong.

I now believe that life is not linear. I can learn learn from chaos and embrace the zigzags.

I heard this in my 20s and I believe it more now… To him that has been given much, much is required.

That people in their 40s and 50s aren’t nearly as old as they seem. 😉

I thought you hit a certain age and you were considered “grown-up.” You had learned all you needed to know and wouldn’t make big mistakes. I realize now you never hit that point.

I don’t know everything.

As for me:

  • We have even less control than we imagine.  The mystery of God’s love and providence only deepens as we see it in action.
  • Presence is a powerful gift, especially when we realize that we cannot “fix” things for those we love.
  • We only have today guaranteed. Be emotionally brave, and say it now.
  • Being kind and forbearing (even when you’re right) is always the better impulse.

How would you answer?

Jennifer L. Holberg

I’ve taught English at Calvin College since 1998–where I get to read books and talk about them for a living. What could be better? Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture (and yes, I realize that that is a very long subtitle). I also do various administrative things across campus. As an Army brat, I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I’ve now lived in Grand Rapids. I count myself rich in friends and family. I enjoy kayaking and hiking. I collect cookbooks (and also like to cook), listen to all kinds of music, and watch all manner of movies and tv shows. I love George Eliot, Jane Austen, Marilynne Robinson, Dante, E.M. Delafield, Tennyson, Hopkins, and Charlotte Bronte (among others). And I have a bumper sticker on my car that says: “I’d rather be reading Flannery O’Connor.” Which is true.

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