If I could go back and speak to an earlier version of myself, I’d probably go back and give the high school version of me a good shake. Full of insecurity and self-doubt, I frequently blasted those around me with harsh judgment. Then I became a Christian, and…kept doing the same thing.
It took a few years, a change of scenery, and a lot of healing to begin to recognize my own belovedness and the belovedness of others (to borrow from Henri Nouwen’s lovely interpretation of Jesus’ baptism). In the mean time I caused a lot of hurt.
Recently a friend in my church contributed a chapter to a book that attempts to do what many of us wish we could do: go back and speak truth to ourselves at some point in our past. The book doesn’t actually accomplish this goal, of course, but it does something more helpful. It captures these insights with an eye to sharing them with young people plotting their own journeys into adulthood.
With contributions by my friend Kristin Ritzau as well as Margot Starbuck, Brian McLaren, Seth Barnes and others, Dan Schmidt compiled Letters to Me: Conversations with a Younger Self. In short reflections it chronicles the trials of 18-30 year-olds charting pathways through relationships, childbirth, divorce, job and career exploration (and failure), and making sense of God.
One of my favorite quotes is from Brian McLaren’s letter to his younger self, some of the many words I suspect many of our high school seniors and former youth group students might benefit from hearing:
I want to whisper a few possibilities to you—whisper them, not shout them; pose them as possibilities, not as yet more requirements for you to try to believe. First, God is real. God is faithful. God is good.
But not exactly in the ways you have been taught, and not exactly in the ways you wish.
…There aren’t any shortcuts from where you are to where you will someday be. But maybe this second possibility will help you: there is a difference between trusting God and trusting your current ideas about God. (pp 117, 119)
In the midst of all the struggles emerging adults often face, this pathway of sorting out our adolescent understanding of God in light of our young adult experience of life is often poignant. I’m looking forward to sharing this book with some 20-somethings I know and getting their own take on how that journey is going.
What are some of the life truths you try to (or hope to) share with 18-30 year-olds?