Dear 18-year old Patti –
Congratulations on surviving high school. You don’t know it yet, but college will be even harder. In fact, it’s going to be so hard that you’d rather sit around and smoke and chat with your friends. Or sleep on the bench. In fact, you’re going to come up with lots of genius ideas. Beer bong-ing rum cokes was pretty classic. Chasing “slammers” with beer so you can puke on the suit of your date for one of the million debuts you’ll be invited to. Including crashing the party of a guy you hate and loudly and drunkenly declaring the party’s a dud. You’re going to have fun alright. So much fun that you’re going to blow off college for a few months, even transfer to a third-rate institution because you couldn’t be bothered to wake up early and do the bare minimum. But you’ll do well in this third-rate institution. In fact, you’ll even make Dean’s List and land your first job in a top PR agency because your teacher will be so impressed with you that she’ll give you the job on a silver platter.
But your rise to the proverbial “top” will be full of detours and potholes and blown tires and overheated engines. Your ego will be crushed several times. You will leave your “dream job” over and over again. You will meet the worst kinds of people – some of them will be your bosses and colleagues and a few of them will be guys you think at first are awesome but will end up breaking your heart. Oh, your heart. It will be stepped on, wrung dry, bled to the bone. You’re going to cry to sleep so many nights you’re going to be tempted to end it all a few times. Even people you will call “friends” will find some way to betray you, humiliate you, make you miserable. And there will be many moments when you’re awful yourself. Really, when it’s bad, it’s going to be terrible.
That’s not to scare you. Because, you know – when it’s good – it can be quite wonderful. You will meet people who are proof positive that you should never lose hope. You’re going to meet a few who will make you laugh til your insides hurt. Some who will teach you to forgive and live in the present. Some who will show you what it means to rise and rise again, to not allow past mistakes to dictate your future, past bitterness to harden your heart. You will learn to stay vulnerable and trusting. You will learn to be kind despite it all. You will learn to give when there’s nothing else to give. You will learn to love.
And you will be thankful for it all because the Lord will have found you. I know He seems far away now but He’s really just waiting for you to come around. He knows you, He made you, after all. So He knows not to push, He knows to just wait. And wait He will. Until that December in 2006 when everything will change and you will know what it means to finally be alive – when all of this will make sense.
So it’s ok. It’s ok if you don’t really know anything. It’s ok to pretend that you do. You’re not really supposed to get it yet anyway (I mean, now at 33, I don’t think I still have a handle on it.) But it’s truly ok. Because He loves you enough to never let the low get too deep, to never let the highs get to your head and allow you to float away, to anchor you in something more substantial than your feelings so that you don’t drown in everything. He loves you enough to forgive you for all the awful, horrible public and secret sins you will commit and ever made. He loves you enough to bless you and give you things you want sometimes, and keep things you really want away more often than not because it’ll be bad for you. He loves you enough to forgive you. So forgive yourself.
Fifteen years later, life’s still going to be messy by the way. But, it’s ok. Because He said so.
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