Counsel for the 17 year old me


Last month I celebrated my birthday. If you missed it, that’s ok, I’m still accepting gifts. My birthday got me thinking about areas I would like to grow in. I considered who I am and where I want to be, as well as who I was and where I used to be. Those thoughts were magnified when I learned that my high school graduating class is having its 20 year reunion next month. Twenty years doesn’t quite seem possible. There are days when I feel like I just graduated high school last week – the beautiful bride laments that there are days when I act like I just graduated high school last week.

So, now that I have been out for two decades, what would I say to my 17 year old self? What counsel would I give to myself in my senior year?

As a primer, I would tell him to read “Thoughts for Young Men” by J.C. Ryle. Then, I would pull him in real close and say this to him…

  • Embrace the gospel, and live as if God is for you, not against you. Prior to your conversion, God was very much opposed to you, but you were also very much opposed to Him. That changed when He graciously saved you. Don’t miss what I said – God saved you. You had nothing to do with it. Eliminate the phrase “I chose Christ”. No, you didn’t. He chose you (John 15:16). Because He chose you, what He is doing in your life is for His glory and your benefit. Stop thinking that God is playing a game of chess with your life. You don’t need to make deals with God – if I do this then…God is already for you, He is already seeking your best because you are in Christ.
  • Every day, remind yourself of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-5). Remind yourself daily of the depth of your sinfulness and your desperate need of a Savior, and then turn that reminder into rejoicing that out of His infinite kindness, He saved you.
  • You are exerting great effort into impressing those around you. You want them to like you. You want them to think highly of you, and to be as impressed with you as you are yourself. Let me scramble your brain – in twenty years, of the 500 plus students you graduated with, you will still be in contact with less than a handful of them. Instead of seeking the approval of men, it would be wiser of you to set your mind on things above (Colossians 4:3).
  • Let me be more direct – move past the fear of man. There are things you are doing, or not doing, because of the fear of man. You are a slave to the fear of man, and it is not a generous or friendly taskmaster. The fear of man lays a snare (Proverbs 29:25) and you are snagged in it. Seek God, fear God, and do what He says regardless of the opinions of others. Your high school is a tremendous mission field. Out of love of God and love for people, will you tell them the gospel? Twenty years from now, many of your classmates will still be living for themselves, and either out of ignorance or rebellion will persist in rejecting Christ and remain exposed to God’s wrath. Perhaps, just maybe, God might use you in their lives now. Let your devotion to the Savior be greater than your craving for approval. Let your desire for their eternal security be greater than the temporary discomfort of any ridicule you might receive. Even if that happens, you are still blessed! (Matthew 5:11).
  • You are a little bummed because you are a high school senior, and have never had a girlfriend. Instead of pining away for the affection of one your classmates, use this time to hone and refine the character and qualities of someone who will one day marry THE MOST AMAZING WOMAN ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET!!! She will (rightly) expect her husband (that’s you, slick) to exhibit the habits of a godly man. Quit thinking about right now and how you would like to have a girl to go out with. Begin the preparation now to learn how to sacrificially love your wife (Ephesians 5:25). No high school relationship is going to do that for you. Plus, you don’t have a job or any money, so how do you plan to take a girl on a date anyway?
  • Get a job. If no company will hire you, go find some kind of ongoing work. Learn to love to work. Work is good because God created it. Work is not the curse – work being hard is the curse. You have the time – all that TV watching you are doing could easily be replaced with some labor. You have the energy, you hyper-kinetic freak of nature. Go be productive. Read and re-read Proverbs 6:6-11. You foolishly turned down a good paying job because you were afraid it would infringe on your social life. Guess what? Your social life has much to be desired. It is boring by how mundane and ordinary it is. How may weekend nights must you hang around in the parking lot of the Majik Market looking for something to do before you realize that? Again, in 20 years, you won’t be social with hardly anyone you are being social with now. Is that worth depriving yourself of an income and some dignity?
  • Mom and Dad have said this to you repeatedly, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. You know the speech so well you can quote it verbatim. But they are absolutely correct. Listen to them (Proverbs 1:8). Rid yourself of your procrastination. If you do this, you will spare yourself many unnecessary trials. Fail to rid yourself of it, and it will repeatedly kick you in the fanny. It will haunt you into your late 30’s. Kill it now. Don’t hesitate.

This is not designed to be a comprehensive list – the 17 year old me can only handle so much. The present day me longs for the 17 year old me to grasp these words of wisdom. The present day me also longs for the present day me to grasp and apply such counsel. May God’s grace be active in my life to such a level that 20 years from now I am not repeating this message.


14 thoughts on “Counsel for the 17 year old me

  1. I certainly agree that you married an amazing woman. You will have even more to say when your high school class has it’s 50th Anniversary. Love your whole family, Grandpa Rich

  2. Pingback: Counsel for the 17 year old me | Jesus Loves Crazy

  3. Carl- my heart is a little sad that my two teens did not get the blessing of your counsel as youth pastor. So many parents have lost sight of what is most important for their children: a saving knowledge and relationship with their Creator. We are often too focused on our kids being well known and well liked by friends, teachers, etc and being the cool family. I do not care if my kids are popular, involved in the important activities, or part of the group that will “make it” in this world. I am only concerned that they know where they are going in the next and that they know and seek out Christ and serve Him. Thanks for reaffirming what we are feeling for our children!

    • Amy, I am grateful for and honored by your thoughtful words. It would have been a joy of mine to serve your family.

      But…it seems with the desires and goals you have for your children, you and James are the best youth pastors your kids could have asked for. In fact, your desires and goals for your children encourage me. There are far too few parents who are willing to live by the expressions of faith you have shared. I trust God will grant you and your kids the fruit of these desires as you daily, urgently, and passionately seek the One who is the source of and fullness of the goals you have for your kids.

      We miss seeing each of you!

      • Thanks Carl. I pray God uses you mightily in your community to draw families together. You are a blessing to them and those who know you. I hope to run into you and your family when we visit home this summer.

      • Grateful for your prayers! Please do come see us when you are (relatively) nearby!

  4. Love this post! Thanks for sharing your wisdom and thoughts, Carl!!

  5. Think about you often and relieved to have “found” you. Will enjoy getting to know the adult you through your blog. Would love for you to get to know the “adult” (still feel like I’m 17) me at Tell your beautiful family hello.

    • Wow, thanks Nancy! I’m honored that you would think me worth searching for. Would love to catch up with you beyond an exchange of bytes. Enjoyed exploring your blog. God has richly blessed you!

  6. Reblogged this on HeartNoise and commented:
    Meet a dear friend from my church youth group. God used the “Attic” in a mighty way. Enjoy.

  7. Thank you for sending this wise counsel. My 17 year old grandson is living for God and needs all of the encouragement he can get. He loves to read and know he will love reading this. Since a mission trip to the DR he is pumped. He is leaving for Trinidad in two weeks and will live in Africa this summer. God is providing incredible opportunities for him. Can’t wait to read more of your blog entries!

    Ginny Ball

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