P.S.: As I was saying

Published 10:01 am Wednesday, October 3, 2018

by Charles Qualls

As we so often do with significant conversations, sometimes we’ll reflect back on what we said and only then realize the things we did not say. Such was the case almost as soon as I submitted my recent column, a “A letter to my 22-year-old self.”   

Turns out, there are some more things I should have told my younger self. Here goes.

Life isn’t always going to be fair. It just won’t be. And, no, God won’t build a bubble around me just because I am a person of faith. Bad things will happen to good people. Good things will happen to people who often appear to be “bad.” That’s life.

You will have a lot of buddies, a ton of acquaintances and a small handful of true friends. That is if you are most fortunate. Know the differences. They’re all good, but relationships can come under needless strain when you get these camps confused. 

Just like family, some of your friends are going to disappoint you. It will hurt when they do. We give the people closest to us the access of vulnerability. You will even have a few times ahead where you’ll make the painful decision to move on from what used to be an enjoyable friendship. Thankfully, though, only a few. 

Use your off time and vacation. Every bit of it that you can. This won’t come easily for you. You’ll be better when you’re “on” if you protect and enjoy your time “off.” 

You can only control what you can control. You don’t know it yet, but so much of life is outside your control. We have a responsibility, to self or others, to manage our parts of what we can. For your emotional health, though, you’d better get clear eventually on what is beyond your control. 

You haven’t had a lot to grieve yet. That’s going to change. Grief will come when you lose something. Most often it’s a loved one, but not always. We can lose a life dream. A career. A marriage. That’s going to hurt, and it should. Grief will be the cost of having loved or hoped. It will hurt and even scare you, because grief feels a lot like fear. 

“Happy, mad, sad, glad and scared.” Get these straight. These are the basic feelings that humans have. Most everything else is a thought, not a feeling. You’ll need to get okay with your feelings and stop fearing them so much. They are neither good nor bad, until we act out on them.     

Your default mode, when life’s pain comes along, is to think first so that you don’t have to feel. Give yourself more access to your feelings and explore them. Everybody around you will benefit as you get to know yourself better. 

You are headed into a field in which you will not survive if you can’t make peace with the impossibility of the task. Visit four people in one day? When you go home there’ll be a fifth who is wondering why you didn’t visit them. Preach a good sermon? Someone else doesn’t care because they weren’t listening. Instead, they think you should be more involved out in the community. Bringing in a lot of new and returning members to the church? Someone is still giving you a low grade on your report card because the newcomers aren’t quite young enough to suit them. Or, the growing class caused their own class to have to change rooms. It’ll be impossible, and you’d better get straight on that. Everybody will be grading you with a slightly different report card. 

Like all other adults, one of the things you will eventually have to do is to make peace with who you are. You will also have to make peace with who you are not, and you will not enjoy that. Own what you have discovered about yourself. Work on what you think you should. Grieve what you discover you are not. Learn to let go of the dead weight of past projections that just aren’t going to come true. 

Learn to trust your gut when you meet someone new. A lot of the rational “first impressions” we draw after we interact can actually be wrong. But, trust your ability to read the split-second visual as you meet someone. Your nearly unconscious read of their face will be accurate an awful lot of the time, because even they can’t lie to their own face. It’ll give you a decent idea of what’s really in there.  Some will flunk that first glance. Then, at least give them a chance anyway. It’s what Jesus would have you to do.

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.