My very favorite blogger, my dearest friend Emily at Primitive Roads sent me the link to the Chatting at the Sky blog where the author posted this challenge: to write a letter to your teenage self. This project was in large part to celebrate the release of Emily Freeman, the author’s, new book for teen girls, Graceful. I totally missed the prompt link-up that was weeks ago, but I just couldn’t help but see the beauty and value of the idea. So therefore, without any further adieu, I participate. 🙂
Dearest 16-year-old Sarah,
First and foremost, let me tell you, all the best and worst are so very surely yet to come. You will experience love and friendship in ways you never imagined. You will encounter people who will change everything you believe about the world through the way they love you. You will cry for what feels like eternities piled on end when your heart is broken and you feel the unbearable weight of grief and loss. But “be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” (1 Cor 16:13-14)
You know those people who are your very closest friends now? Appreciate them at this moment, because things will never be this way with each of you again. You will each face things that undeniably alter who you are. One friend will get pregnant at a young age. Several will abuse drugs and alcohol. One will die from this. One will lose her dad when you are in college. One will be someone you stay in contact with. But things will change in so many more ways than you can imagine. You will find new friends, but those foundational ones will always be a part of you. The people who you hang out with at youth group will form some friendships that will continue for years to come, because you are building on a different foundation. Make good choices in those.
There are passions budding in your heart that will be a part of your identity for a long time. Your love for teaching and sports and even for caring for children will continue to grow and transform into the pull that guides your vocation after college. You will refine gifts that you don’t even realize you have yet. You will recognize strengths in yourself that no one else could affirm the way that God will. There will also be weaknesses you uncover and develop that will be thorns in your side for many years. You deeply desire affirmation, attention, and approval from others, and the places where you feel successful right now are all places you gladly receive value from those things. You will enter a long process of learning to need approval only from God, and it will require a great deal of failure to learn. Hold on tight, it’s a bumpy ride.
Sarah, your relationship with your body is taking its first negative step this year. You will have a love-hate relationship with control over your body for many years to come. You will not feed it well at times and you will spend many years abusing its boundaries with eating and exercise. Accept the call to see your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit now, and know that there is grace and forgiveness at the end of the long tunnel, though it will undoubtedly feel hopeless at times. You will have this body for the rest of your life, so it is futile to be angry or resentful of that, to yourself, or to God.
I know you feel like the only person who is as boy-crazy as you are, but take comfort, you are not alone in this. Even internally, the hyperactivity of your mind, spinning in every different direction, will be quieted only by your love and comfort in God. You will spend many years searching for intimacy as a deep desire of your heart, and you will continuously miss the point on this adventure. I can tell you now that it is meant to lead you back to the Creator, not to the creation, but you won’t listen. Instead you will learn this from years of the heartache and disappointment that comes from idolatry, whether conscious or not.
You already know you have great parents, but you haven’t even begun to uncover how VERY great. You will change the way you love and respect them, and all for the better. You will start to see their individual personalities and gifts and learn to value the journey that brought them together many years ago. Stop rolling your eyes and don’t be a brat to your dad. Appreciate the lunches he packs for you and your brother every day, the relentless way he loves and works to take care of everyone’s needs. Listen to your mom’s stories about the children she cares for at work, and know that she would always rather be spending that time with you and your siblings, but she works out of love and strength. God gave you a family to show you community, and all the craziness that comes with it. Hug your brother as often as possible, he will be away in the military for several years and you will miss him and worry about him so much more than you could have predicted. Spend as much time as possible with your sister and the kids, they will grow up so quickly and you will never get back the time you miss out on with them. Offer to babysit for them and give your sister a break, she works her butt off and is a great mom in the process.
Finally, you were introduced to Jesus two years ago, and your relationship with Him stands on shaky toddler legs. You have no idea the depth or the width or the breadth of His love for you. Take heart, He will spend every day of the rest of your life pursuing you, in a way you don’t even realize yet that you desperately desire. He holds everything you want in the palm of His hand, and will graciously give to you if you’d only ask. You will learn quickly that to cling to Him is the hope of all hope, and that He will never, ever fail you. You will spend time thinking and questioning throughout your life, but you will continue to return to Him as the true anchor of your soul, and will find your rest in His love and salvation alone.
Give yourself a break today, you’re gonna need it.