As I started post draft after post draft, unable to complete a thought about things that the Lord is teaching me, I stumbled upon something in one of my old journals.
I wrote these letters to myself a few years ago after reflecting on the past few years. I looked back on the different seasons of my life, how I viewed them and reacted in the moment, and with that 20/20 hindsight vision, gave my younger self some advice.
It may be theoretical or pointless because I can’t go back and tell my 9, 13, or 16 year old self anything, but what’s amazing is how many of the things I still need to hear today. That despite 5 or 10 more years of story after story of the Lord’s faithfulness, I still let my heart get overwhelmed, I still worry about circumstances, or have to preach His trustworthiness to my heart. So here’s a glimpse into my younger heart (and, let’s be real, some of my heart today):
Dear 9 year old Maddie,
You are dealing with stuff in school. One day it’s great and you and your friends have a secret handshake, and the next you don’t feel cool or pretty enough. I know you think some of the girls are prettier than you. I know you wonder why some people are best friends with the other girls and not you. I know you are secretly jealous of the friendship the other girls have and the way the teacher prefers them. I also know that when the “pretty” girls include you, you let it cover your insecurity. I know how you make fun of one of the girls because you think she’s a little more awkward (and you secretly feel left out and awkward). But I know that she hurt your feelings when she didn’t like the book you gave her at the book swap. I also know that it kind of hurts when she gets all the attention, even if it’s because people are joking about her and the boy you think is cute. I know how you are trying to figure boys out (you’ll never be able to, just so ya know). I know you feel crazy when you go back and forth, thinking they are cute, but still annoying. I also know how you feel when they pay attention to you. And you don’t know what to do with that in terms of your relationship with Jesus. CALM DOWN. Things like someone not liking the book you brought to a book swap is really not a big deal, although I know it really feels like it in the moment. It’s good that you want to be people’s friends and you want to love them – never lose that to cynicism (you will for a period). But Mads, always make sure you are someone friend or not someone’s friend for the right reasons. See everyone through the eyes of Christ, not what they can do for your identity and insecurity. You won’t stay close to a lot of these people from elementary school anyways. So learn to love them in the moment and don’t be afraid for the Lord to only keep them in your life for a season. Find your worth in Him alone. He’s the only one that can completely fill your desires to be loved and pursued. Your life is going to change and things will get better, but you won’t always see it in the moment. Don’t forget to cling to the Lord and keep things in perspective.
Dear 13 year old Maddie,
You are letting everything overwhelm you. Take a deep breath, babe. It’s all ok. It is all going to be ok. What you are so concerned about doesn’t really matter in the long run. In fact, you are going to read back over these journal entries some day and laugh at how big and important some of the smallest things seemed. But the fact that you are putting and pouring your heart out before the Lord is amazing. Don’t lose that. Don’t get so caught up in everything else that you forget that He is everything in the first place. You are about to face the loneliest time in your teenage life. A lot of friends are going to leave your life, church stuff is about to get messy, and you are going to feel like the new friends you are making aren’t happening fast enough. Go wholly to God in this. Your relationship will grow leaps and bounds during this time with Him. Don’t forget to forgive people in the middle of this. They are doing the best they can and the Lord is going to use it all for His glory, even though it may hurt pretty bad in the moment. You are going to hit a lot of emotional highs and lows in the next few years. You aren’t crazy and it won’t last forever. Rest in the unchanging nature of God and let it all play it. I promise, it’s going to be okay. Combat the anger and cynicism that bubbles up. Let the Lord refine you in this desert and appreciate the blessing when He sends it. When you don’t see the blessing? Appreciate Him and realize His infinite love for you.
Dear 16 year old Maddie,
Welcome to a very maturing year for you. You are going to have some of the deepest moments with the Lord, and also some pretty shallow relational and academic failures. You are going to wrestle with praise and hypocrisy and fitting in. You are going have some wonderful insight and write things to and about the Lord in this time. Never forget to be grateful for what the Lord brought you out of and spared you from. Embrace church and the people in it – they aren’t perfect and there will be times of confusion, but the Lord is going to be so in it. You just have to search for Him. Don’t let your overthinking interfere with the spiritual depths the Lord wants to bring you to. Stop worrying about your friendships, especially with guys. It’s really all okay. Stop worrying about your future. I know you probably won’t believe me, because I know how overwhelming it feels to your young heart, but the Lord really is going to work everything out in some pretty amazing ways. Cling tightly to the One who has never and will never change or leave. He loves you more than anyone else ever will. His plans for you far supersede your plans for yourself. Trust Him.
You may not be a 9, 13, or 16 year old reading this. In fact, you may be significantly past 20. And you could probably write me a letter with the incredible wisdom you’ve accumulated that’s more impactful than any of these. And maybe it’s not even the content of these letters that means anything to you. Maybe it’s the fact of looking back and hypothetically writing to yourself after seeing the big picture. Because we know the Lord sees it all. He sees us in the past, He sees us now, and He sees us in the future.
And in that future, what do you think you’d be saying to your heart now? It’s probably a lot of the same things Jesus may be saying to your heart that you have tuned out (guilty as charged over here). Are you trusting in the ability of the Lord to carry your burdens? Are the “mountains” in your life as big of a deal as you think they are? And if they are, are you seeing them in light of the love and sovereignty and redemption of the Lord, even if it doesn’t make sense in the moment?
Because here’s the deal, life’s going to keep going on until we reach the shores of eternity. And then we’ll get to look back on our whole lives and see all the places the Lord was moving when we couldn’t see it. I know there are things that I’m going to look back on 10 years from now and say, “oh Mads, if only you knew. . .”
But the less of those there are, the better. Because Jesus is good and faithful here and now. And I don’t want to miss it. Let’s pursue His unconstrained, timeless wisdom together, choosing to speak the truth of the future and the past over what we may or may not be feeling in the present.
Have a wonderful Monday. Remember, it’s all okay. He’s got you.