I remember when I was your age. The world seemed so open, free, and full of possibilities. Standing there with the love of my life, I felt invincible. Young love is such a powerful force. Actually, maybe it is young infatuation or hormones; but, whatever it is, it is powerful. ~smile~
What I would not give to go back there for just a moment – to breathe in the excitement of our future. The first time he looked at me with that more than friends gaze. The first time our hands brushed and chills shot through me. The first time we kissed after he weighed the pros and cons of doing so. ~smile~ Those are the days I cling to when life feels heavy and I wonder, “Are we going to make it?”
Maybe you wonder why I am writing to you. It is a letter I have started a dozen times and never finished, but now is the time to say what you need to hear. If only I had realized what was coming – the joys and the trials – I could have prepared my emotions. I could have breathed deeply and reminded myself that this too shall pass. For the happy times, I would have paid closer attention, put my phone down, and enjoyed every detail of children’s birthday parties, quiet dinners with my devoted man, and every game of fetch with the world’s greatest dog.
The main reason I am writing to you now is due to a recent, troubling experience. Last week, I wanted to run away from my life. Tuesday morning I awoke to an overwhelming feeling of despair and I fought the urge to pack my bags and leave. Is this all there is? Will I ever get where I want to be in my life and marriage? Will change – good change – ever come? Why am I still fighting these same battles? When does it get fun? Thankfully, I have learned to listen to my body and eat before convincing myself I am truly depressed. Often, we simply need a solid snack to lift our spirits (and blood sugar).
Food helped, but the feeling did not dissipate. It was concerning. What is wrong with me? Why am I thinking these terrible thoughts? Why am I daydreaming about being young and free? As I wrestled with my thoughts and emotions throughout the next few days, I reminded myself, “Everyone feels this way sometimes. You are not crazy. You are not unique in your struggle. Hold on; you will get through this.”
So, that is why I am writing to you, Younger Me – to encourage you not to give in to those defeating feelings. Eat protein. Talk to a trusted friend. Renew your mind with Scripture and prayer. But, please, do not let the trials of this world convince you to give up and run.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18, ESV)
Right now, your future is bright. And, it is! That is not simply an illusion or a lie your family told you on graduation day. You are going to experience some amazing moments – friends, accomplishments, births, and celebrations. You will also experience some disappointments – hurt feelings, losses, struggles, and mourning. The good and the pain all work together to paint your picture – to write your story. Appreciate the good, but do not despise the hardships. They serve a purpose too.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2-3, ESV)
After my three day vacation to the dumps, I decided it was time to finish this letter to you. There are just a few lessons I wish I had learned earlier in life. Maybe then I would not have spent so much time under a blanket of fear, wondering if everything was going to be okay.
At some point, you are going to want to run away.
No matter how blessed you are or how many of your dreams have come true, there will be seasons of your life – seasons of your marriage – when you wonder, “Am I going to make it?” Sometimes, the desire to pick up and go will be strong and that does not make you a coward or a weirdo. It makes you human. Some of the strongest people I know have also battled the desire to run from their lives because adult pressures are real. Bills are real. Marital strife is real. Misbehaving children are real. Work stress is real. Sick and aging parents are real. And, inside each of us there is a child who wants to say, “Not my circus! Not my monkeys!” and enjoy a three-scoop ice cream cone in front of the TV. Some days, you will want to run. When those days come, do not be surprised. Do not beat yourself up. Do not feel alone.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (I Corinthians 10:13, ESV)
We were not meant to walk alone.
When you experience these moments or seasons of struggle, you will have the urge to hide. You will push away your family and friends and desire to wallow. When they reach out to you, you will think, “They do not need to deal with me and my pathetic needs. They have their own issues.” Younger Me, please let them help. Even if they do nothing but listen, bring you flowers, or pray with you, you need them. You can try to convince yourself that you do not need anyone; but, before long, your insides will dry up and grow desperate for the nourishment we only receive from connection with others. There is no need to be a hero. It is okay to ask for help and it is important to accept it when it is offered. You are not the only one who struggles. You are not the only one who hurts. You are not alone.
For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (I Thessalonians 5:9-11, ESV, emphasis mine)
God does not change. We do.
Some days you will look up to the heavens and simply ask God, “Why?” Why is my life not going the way I thought it would? Why am I not as successful as I thought I would be? Why do my dreams feel out of reach? When is it going to be easier? Occasionally, you will question if God is there at all. Sometimes you will blame Him for the grief in your life when it feels like He is holding back His blessings. When I have run headfirst into such moments, I am reminded that God does not change. God does not stray. God does not bend to temptation. God is steadfast. I am the one who changes, who gives in to my fleeting emotions and who is quick to believe lies. When I question God’s goodness, the problem is in my heart.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6, ESV)
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8, ESV)
For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. (Malachi 3:6, ESV, emphasis mine)
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11, ESV)
Wrap your arms around your spouse and appreciate him.
Several years ago, on the drive back from North Carolina to Virginia, I had an impactful conversation with an old friend. He simply said, “Go into your house, wrap your arms around your husband, and appreciate that man.” His words convicted me as life and marriage had not been incredibly easy for us in those early days. More often than was healthy, I dwelled on what my husband could be doing better, how I could be happier, and what needed to change in my life. The swift, powerful words of my friend shot to the core of my ungrateful heart. Appreciate him.
He was right. I had not appreciated my husband and that accounted for at least part of my gloomy outlook on my marriage. So, I did just that. I came in, hugged him, and appreciated him. Days still come when I fail to appreciate him. I do not always offer him my respect. I push him away. I still have a long way to go, but those wise words from so many years ago continue to ring in my ear. God has blessed us with a spouse, Younger Me, and we should always appreciate him.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24, ESV, emphasis mine)
However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:33, ESV)
Tuck this letter away. File it somewhere you can retrieve it easily. Fold it up and place it in the Bible I hope you read daily. Have it at the ready to remind you to stay the course when it feels nearly impossible. Scripture reminds us that nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37, Matthew 19:26, Matthew 17:20, Mark 10:27). God is going to show Himself faithful to you over and over again. Just wait. It is going to be incredible. Keep believing. Keep praying. Keep drinking in the truth of God’s word. Keep renewing your mind (Romans 12:2). It is the only way you will stay sane on this journey.
When you get weary and wonder, “Am I going to make it? Are we going to make it?” … know that I am already here on the other side. You made it. Keep going. It is worth every sacrifice and every tear. I promise you.
Cheering you on always,
I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2, ESV)
Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. (Jeremiah 32:17, ESV)