Oh, sweet sixteen. I see you there, all aglitter at finally feeling grown-up and secretly delighted that you’re actually to the age where you can sing “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” and supposedly mean it. Except in your mind, there needs to be a dashing young man there to sing it with…and there’s definitely no one like that in sight. You think he’ll probably show up sometime soon, because you really want to get married, and think it should happen by the time you’re eighteen. Oh me, you’ve got much to learn…
These next years will be hard. Despite loving ballet so much and enjoying the bits of musical theatre you have a chance to do, you and I both know that more than anything, you just want to be married. No more “ambitions” than to be a wife and mother, and you’re not really sure what you’ll do after you graduate high school in a few short years…thus the married-by-eighteen plan seems to be perfect. Well, dear one, you won’t be married by eighteen. Or nineteen. Or even twenty. You won’t say “I do” until a month before your 23rd birthday (you’ll actually only be a day older than the age your mom was when she got married!), and though most of your peers won’t understand why, those years between sixteen and then will sometimes seem to drag on and on.
They won’t drag on for lack of things to do though. After you graduate, you’ll travel the world (literally!) and it will change you so much. I’m excited for you! So many of those fears that you’ve struggled with in the last years, the Father will gently bring to light and will continually be working in your heart. You’ll discover the details as you walk along this journey, but the main lessons seem to be trust and grace. They’ll show up again and again and again, and you’ll still be learning them all the more ten years from now.
You especially need to learn to trust the Father with this desire to be married. Believe me, I know just how hard it is for you…but if you learn now to rest in His timing and trust that He’ll bring you two together in His perfect time, it will save you a lot of tears and grief over the next years. I know you’re starting to despair (and will do so even more in the coming years) that there are no “real men” you know that you would even consider marrying. No young men who are serious about wanting to be married and no young men who are strong enough to pursue you. Oh, but dear one…just you wait. When it’s time, he’ll want to be married just as much as you do and he’ll pursue you around the world and across oceans. And you’ll be utterly blown away by our Father’s goodness.
And while we’re on the subject of young men…you know all those courtship books you love to read? Just stop. As you’ll see in about six years, real life is nothing like the courtship books. You and I both know well the tendencies of having a rather extreme personality and over the next years, what you read in all those books will cause you to subconsciously build a little box of what a proper, Godly relationship should look like. And let me tell you right now…God is going to totally explode that little box. From beginning a “courtship” after communicating online for two weeks with a man you had never heard of before, to starting to fall in love with this man before you’ve even met him in person. From across-the-Pacific plane rides, and hundreds of chats and emails, to finally marrying each other seven months and two days after first even hearing of each other’s existence. It’s going to be a wild and crazy ride, and it’s not going to be like anything you’ve ever imagined. But dear one, don’t let that keep you from one of the most amazing gifts your Father has ever given you. His hand will be so apparent through it all, so just stay under His mercy and He will lead you both.
And as a little aside to the whole courtship thing — just stop writing your “list” of things you want in a husband. You can keep the first one (“a strong believer”), but anything after that, especially #2 (“taller than me”), just toss out the window. I’m serious. Because I’m going to let you in on a little secret…your incredibly good-looking future husband is shorter than you. By at least two whole inches. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. Because there’s so many other amazing things about him that a couple inches is hardly worth even thinking about.
Well, sixteen-year-old me, I know how much you love reading, but this letter is getting quite long and I need still get some stuff done while the littles nap (yes, your children are more beautiful than you ever dreamed), but I wanted to quickly touch on the grace I mentioned earlier that our Father will keep teaching you.
You don’t really see it now, but that legalism that Dad and Mom warn you about having tendencies toward? Well, they’re right (and over the next ten years, you’ll see they’re right about a lot of other things too). Our extreme personality so loves rules and doing things all the way, but dear one, that will become a bondage for you. But the amazing thing about our God — He sets the captives free. And over the next years, you’ll be set free from that and slowly, slowly, learn to walk in grace. It’s going to be hard, and believe me, you’ll stumble and fall…but again, there’s grace. So keep clinging to that, dear one, and know that in ten years, you’ll still be learning and you’ll feel like you aren’t any closer to being like Jesus than before. But that’s when we need to keep remembering that Scripture from the beginning of Philippians that you have memorized and underlined. That “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day the day of Jesus Christ”.
And He will. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned in these last ten years, it’s that the goodness of our Father surpasses anything we could ever imagine and that we can trust Him with it all.
So just keep your eyes on Jesus, me-at-sixteen. And that will be enough.
(The blogosphere is full of letters to our teenage selves this week, in celebration of Emily Freeman’s new book Graceful. Care to join us? What would you like to be able to tell your teenage self?)