I missed the link up at www.chattingatthesky.com last week, but I still wanted to share the letter that I wrote to my teenage self. You can read over 250 letters from other people here. The letters are meant to remind us of the struggles we faced as teenagers and the questions we were asking. If you know a teenager now, they might be interested in Emily P. Freeman’s new book, Graceful, that inspired the link up and these letters.
Dear Teenage Self,
You feel alone right now, like nobody really sees you, knows you or understands you. I still don’t know if that’s true or not but I know it feels that way regardless. When your mom tells you that you will find people who understand you and make real friends in college, it’s true, you will. And the longer you live, the better and deeper the relationships you form will be. So, hold on, even though you feel alone now, you won’t forever.
You desperately want to know that God has a plan for your life and you’re freaking out wondering why he isn’t telling you what it is. You want to know if you’re wasting your life, if you’re missing what he’s called you to. No, you’re not. God just doesn’t usually give us a clear vision of the future. In 15 years you’ll look back amazed at where he’s brought you. In fact, you’ll realize that if you knew where you were going to end up, you never would have been able to create a plan to get there. Your path is guided by seemingly random connections and relationships and being at the right place at the right time. You can’t plan that stuff, but God can, and does. And don’t worry, you won’t miss it. You won’t make one tiny mistake now that will completely destroy God’s plan for your life. He is bigger than your choices. Relax.
You are pretty. It frustrates me that you don’t see it because you’re comparing yourself to others. And your perception is off. It really is. Your value isn’t determined by your beauty, but you’re more beautiful than you can see. Even if I were able to convince you to get past your insecurities I know you still wouldn’t listen to my advice because you value modesty, but I’m going to tell you anyway: wear a bikini. You have a good body for it and you can.
You heard someone say that your high school years are the best years of your life. You hope this is not true. Don’t worry; these are not the best years of your life. You will look back on them with gratefulness, fondness and appreciation but you won’t long for them like some of your friends do. Your life gets better with time. You will walk through some deep sadness and you will experience some intense joy; you will live life feeling like you’re truly alive. So, yes, you are right about that one. These are not the best years of your life, but they are good years, so enjoy them as much as you can.
You genuinely love Jesus and you genuinely love people. You’ll spend your life unpacking what it means to love with depth and fullness, but you’ve started on this God journey early and that will be good for you and those you come in contact with throughout your life. You don’t have to relate to people’s sin to love and minister to them; your empathy and compassion and desire to respect people will go a long ways to build bridges with people who seem to be different from you. And, along those lines, you will discover that there is more sin in your life than you are aware of, it just doesn’t look like the sins they’re talking about in youth group right now. But when you begin to realize the depths of your own depravity, you’ll also get to experience the depths of God’s grace. This will be painful but so, so good.
You will marry a man who is more competent throwing around theological phrases than anyone you know now. He is smart and will challenge the way you think. He’ll like some of the same dorky movies and theological themes as your dad which, surprisingly your dad won’t like. Don’t worry about this, it will be fine. He will love you because of your brain, your willingness to question, your independence, your love for people. In short, he will love you for being exactly who you are. He will support you as you pursue your dreams and will help you to redefine Christian marriage. The way he loves you will help you to experience the love God has for you. But, oh my gosh, dating will be stressful. You will doubt and question everything about him and the relationship. You will cry and experience such pain, but the joy will more than make up for it. You will learn that good relationships take work. You will work. It will be worth it.
I think that’s all. I’m afraid I’ve told you too much. I know the questions and uncertainty are such an important part of the process (that’s such and old person thing to say!). But I want to let you know that, at 31, you will look back on your life so far and say, it’s good—a deep, very satisfying, very real good. So know this, I’m proud of you. I believe you can do it. Keep moving. Listen to any advice your mom gives you; she is a wise and amazing woman. Things are good now, but there are even better things to come. Live life as fully as you can, facing and conquering fears. Struggle. Rejoice. And keep on looking at Jesus, you’re going to make it.
Me, at 31.