New blog post: “Lessons Learned From 16 Year Old Me”

I know everyone can look back on their life and see the lessons learned over the years. As I look back on my life, I realize that it was God using those time in which I learned the most valuable lessons to shape me into the person I am today. I am still no where near perfect; but I hope I am closer to the person God desires me to be than I was last year.

When I was 16, I was going for my first paying job, outside of mowing lawns, etc. So like every good small town guy, I applied at Walmart. Thinking about this now, 20 years later, makes me laugh. I remember when I was under 10 years old that the teens worked at Walmart in my small Texas town. This was the place I thought everyone needed to work at when they became a teenager. The time came. I walked in for my interview (several people were interviewing at the same time. I sat down. Right after I left the interview I was disappointed. I didn’t get the job!

Lesson number one learned quickly, be sure not to put all hope or thought into one strategy without thinking about other options. I had to learn how to handle disappointment rather quickly. Another lesson learned was how to lead and follow. Finally, I can look back at the losses and realize I have thankful for my life and where I am today.

Handling disappointment is something we all struggle to learn as we age. We will not win everything and that is okay. We are not meant to win or get everything we want. If we did, we would be the most spoiled people and not care about anyone except what we want and not think about anyone else’s needs / wants. This is something that we just really have to learn. We should remember that God has a great plan for our life and I have noticed that the things in life we get disappointed over may very well be the things that God does not desire for us to have or experience.

I remember very clearly the interviewer asking me, “do you consider yourself a leader or a follower?” and I gave the best answer anyone would give to make themselves look good. Say it with me. “Of course I’m a leader!” Now, at the same time, I heard another teen answering the same question. His answer has stuck with me to this day. “There are times when I am asked to lead, or I step up to lead. But there are times when I know how to follow. So, I am a leader and a follower.” It seems that following another person and trusting they know what they are doing puts us in a vulnerable position. We would rather be in a position of authority and tell people what to do. But this is not what true leadership, or wisdom, is like. True leaders are willing to allow another person to lead. Truthfully, I still struggle with this; even in my walk with Jesus Christ. I like to be in control; but I know there are people I can learn from and people I should let take the lead because of the gifts they have.

Following is also a challenge because the leader will not do things just like you or I would. That is a beautiful thing because then we can show we are learning from everyone. It is too easy to tell the leader what they need to be doing and how to do it; but I have learned we can learn to appreciate different styles of leadership by letting the people do what they feel should be done. There are many times when people look at me, I look younger than I am, and assume that I do not have the experience or knowledge to get the job done. There are times this bothers me; but there is also wisdom to listening. Could we all handle our conversations better? Absolutely. People will always assume they know more than me; but I am learning to thank God for the wisdom and guidance they are attempting to give, even if it is done in an inappropriate manner.

As I look back on my life, I am grateful for the lessons I learned as a 16 year old. Praise God I am where I am today. I believe that if I had chosen different paths in my life, I would not be married to my wife, the most beautiful and caring woman, today. Nor would I have the 2 precious children either. I know I still have a lot to learn. If we ever get to a place where we automatically assume we know how it do it better than another person, or we are smarter, we can miss out on great opportunities to see how God is leading.

Everyone of us will have opinions on what I have just written. And each of us has learned lessons through the years. I invite you to take time and think about some of your most life shaping times in your life and find a way to praise God for the person He is shaping you to be. What have you learned?

To God be the glory. Amen

Published by

Ryan Stratton

Ryan Stratton is a pastor in the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He serves with his wife, Amanda, along with their children. He writes about life, faith, and leadership through his blog.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s