(This is the first in a series of #bloganuary posts, part of a WordPress blogging challenge for the month of January. Never mind that January is two-thirds gone–I’m going to try to get caught up.)
Dear Me When I Was Sixteen:
Things are pretty good for you right now. You have a steady girlfriend at the moment, but don’t get too attached, and don’t feel too bad about it when she dumps you in the summer. You’ll soon be in another relationship, but whatever you do, don’t even think about getting married during your first year of college. Trust me, you will regret that decision for the rest of your life. “The One” is out there, and she’s too young for you right now, but just be patient. She’s the best, and you’ll build a long, happy life together. Don’t worry.
You and your best friend Dwain have been kicking around the idea of riding your bicycles to the church youth conference in Wisconsin next summer. It won’t be easy, but do it anyway. It will be an experience that will give you self-confidence in the years to come (and you’re going to need it). There will be yet another brief summer romance, and your heart will be broken, but you’ll be okay.
You probably won’t believe this, but most of your cooler, more self-confident, more popular peers really aren’t as cool as you think they are. Some of the ones you might think of as totally self-assured, with bright futures and big opportunities–you know who I’m talking about–are going to find out that life after high school is harder than they thought. Some of them will learn the hard way that being cool and popular in high school doesn’t always mean life is good later on.
You’ll see a number of them–the ones who are the jocks, the “most likely to succeed” types, the cheerleaders–decades later, and you’ll learn how life didn’t turn out so well for them. You envy their lives right now, but later, you’ll be grateful for the life you were given, I promise. It will take a few years, but you’ll learn later on that everyone has issues, everyone deals with insecurities and fears, and everyone is a little bit weird in their own ways. You may think that some people are too cool to approach, or that they would never be interested in getting to know someone like you, but you’re wrong about that. Don’t be afraid to risk rejection. I know, there are some genuine jerks out there, but in a few years, you’ll find that some of them are really good people. You’ll be surprised.
You’ll also be surprised in a few years to see how some of the people you thought were weird or geeky turned out to be amazing scholars, book authors, artists, successful politicians. Don’t avoid hanging out with them or getting to know them better, just because you don’t want to be seen as a nerd or a loser. People are people, and you really never know what they’re going through, or what they might become somewhere down the road.
Hang in there with the guitar. It’s frustrating now, I know, because you don’t have money for an electric guitar, and you can’t afford lessons, but you’ve got a good ear, and you want to learn. Keep at it, and it will serve you well one of these days. Your ability to play the guitar (and did you know you could sing? I’m not kidding about that) will open the way to some new friendships, a crap-ton of amazing travels and experiences, and when you’re older, you’ll use music to help people get through hard times, without even realizing that’s what you’re doing. But practice more.
I know you have a lot of questions about God and the Bible, especially at this time in your life, when the Jesus Movement is happening, and there is a bunch of new music–Christian rock ‘n’ roll music!–that is going to become very important to you. You’ll feel the need to pursue a different path than that of your parents, and you’ll go down some theological paths that one day you will end up questioning all over again. Don’t give it up. The faith you will have when you’re much older will be very different from the faith you are beginning to develop today, and that’s going to be upsetting for a few years, but it will be okay. You’ll find your way. Keep your focus on Jesus–I’m sure that sounds trite and obvious to you now, but you’ll save a lot of time and heartache if you understand that the Bible…well, there’s no point in getting into that now. Hold onto Jesus.
You’re going to be a pastor, later in life. It won’t happen when you think, nor the way you think, but it will happen. It won’t be an easy path, but walk it anyway. It means something.
You will have a wife and children and grandchildren one day. That won’t happen when and the way you expect it, either, but believe me, it is going to be what most of your life is about for a long, long time, and it will be good. It won’t always be easy–that’s an understatement, and I’ll leave it there–but trust me, it will be good, better than you can imagine.
And you’ll always feel somewhat inadequate, much the way you do right now, so get used to it and remember that most people feel that way. It isn’t true, of course–you are enough. Imperfect, but you’re going to do your best. You’ll have regrets (everybody does), and things won’t always work out great–just know that. But you’ll look back on your life (as I am now) and be amazed at how great you’ve had it. You’ll go places and see things you never dreamed you would see–you’ll do things you never thought you were capable of doing. And I know you won’t believe this, but you’re going to need a passport.
Listen: there are lots of things you won’t be able to do anything about in your life, but always be kind, always be grateful, and keep believing in Jesus.
Me When I’m In My Sixties
P.S.–Don’t even think about getting married when you’re not quite nineteen. It’s a stupid, stupid, stupid idea.