Dear Me in 1973,
I see you lying on your bed that summer day, between your sophomore and junior years of high school, at what you feel is the lowest point in your life. Your parents have separated and your mom has moved you and your brother and sisters from the tiny town you lived in to the big metropolis of Houston. You’re grieving over the break-up of your family, the move away from all your friends and all that is familiar, the seemingly impossible situation with your father’s anger and alcoholism, the rift in the close relationship you’ve always had with your mother, and the awkwardness of trying to figure out how to relate to the man who will become your step-father. You’re lying on your bed clinging to Roman’s 8:28 for dear life. If I could encourage you in only one thing, it would be to always do that, always cling to God and His Word, to anchor your soul there when the waves of life come crashing over you. You don’t even really fully know what Romans 8:28 means just yet, but you don’t realize it: you do know that you love God in the best way you know how at this time and that He promised to somehow work out all things together for good for those who love Him. He will. There has “not failed one word of all his good promise” (I Kings 8:56).
Don’t resent the loneliness of this time and the responsibilities of being “the oldest” and the “built-in baby-sitter.” God has a purpose in this as well. You’re learning character that will stand you in good stead for years to come. You’re vulnerable and would possibly get into all kinds of trouble if you were allowed to run loose. You proved that possibility by some of the really dumb things you did this year, the only year you were tempted to walk on the wild side. What were you thinking? That just because the rest of your world seemed to be going crazy that you could, too? You’ll realize later that God protected you from so much that could have happened this past year, and His “hemming you in” now is not only keeping you from harm and from major life disasters, but it is giving you time to contemplate, to think, to seek, to pray, time that you might not have spent that way if you had the distractions of friends and amusements that most consider normal for that age.
I can tell you that things do turn a corner in just a few months. God miraculously leads you to a Christian school and provides for you to attend even though your parents can’t afford it. Through the school you’ll attend the church it is affiliated with. You’ve sporadically attended different churches here and there, but now you’ll get under regular Biblical instruction. Your new pastor will encourage his congregation to read the Bible through, you start what will become a habit that will change your life. You get grounded. You’ve struggled with whether the profession of faith you expressed when you were 8 was real and thorough and, though you probably struggle with it much longer than you need to, you will finally come to full assurance from God’s Word that He has saved you and brought you into His family when you asked His forgiveness and believed on His Son.
Your relationship with your mother is restored and you become closer than ever. You learn from the Bible that respect can be based on obedience to God and a person’s God-appointed position in your life even when their actions don’t invite respect, and what’s more, you’ll learn (or begin to — it’s a life-long lesson) to love and have compassion on other people in spite of faults and failings, just as God does you. Years later that father whom you thought would be the hardest to reach and the last one to be saved does come to finally know the Lord. Your mom, though there is not one obvious moment that you can point to as a conversion, experiences a change of heart that causes you to believe and hope that she truly did come to faith in the quietness of her own heart. You will lose her much sooner that you’ll be ready to: stay in touch, call often, treasure each moment. Don’t be so ready to begin the grand adventure of your adult life that you forget to keep close contact with those at home.
I wish I could forewarn you away from that four-year attachment to that young man. I think the Lord may have had a purpose in in the beginning — you start working at a grocery store a few months after you moved where there are all kinds of teen-age guys, unsaved guys, and you had little instruction and not much sense about dating. You always were too boy-crazy. Even when you were two your parents said you were “in love” with your cousin. It may be that having a boyfriend kept you from getting into a worse situation with some of those guys. But it is not healthy and it goes on way too long. You’re still afflicted with the “cave-man” view of love, that love comes and bops you on the head and drags you off and whoever you “fall in love with” is the one for you despite all kinds of warning signs. Thankfully you’ll feel the Lord wants you in college, which delays a right-out-of-high school wedding (what a disaster that would have been!) And later when you have had some instruction and you’re a little more mature and you begin to seek the Lord’s will in this area of your life, you’ll see this relationship is all wrong. There will be another lonely spell, but be patient! You’ll still have a lot to learn and a lot of growing to do. In this area, as in others, you come to a point of trusting God’s leadership rather than striving after fulfillment your own way.
You want to go to college, but you don’t see how it will possibly work. There’s no money at all — your folks are doing all they can do to take care of you and your five siblings. But God will lead and provide in miraculous ways. You’ll love it: meeting new people, being stimulated in your faith, your thinking, your imagination. There will be some painful spots as you continue to develop the character you need and as you grow. When you are unable to get a job first semester and are advised to try the library second semester, as you sit down to take the entrance test, you really don’t know how you will handle a job in addition to your classes, and you pray for the Lord’s will to be done in whether you get the job or not. Years later you learn that they don’t really have a need for another student worker right at that time, but the man who interviews you feels sorry for you and hires you. The Lord works in mysterious ways, for that’s where you first meet Jim and become friends. Friendship leads to interest and interest lead to…well, I’ll let you be surprised.
Throughout your childhood when you dreamed of what you wanted to be when you grew up, the possibilities of writer, teacher, and psychiatrist all were considered (as well as being a movie star, which idea was wisely tossed aside). Even amidst all the other possibilities, you always wanted to be a wife and mother, and the Lord fulfills that desire, with a bit of the others mixed in (all mothers are to some degree teachers and psychiatrists. ).
When health issues come up later on, the lessons of faith and dependence on God that you learn along the way will stand you in good stead, and you find yourself once again clinging to Him in faith when another of life’s waves rolls over you.
You will know by experience as well as by faith that God keeps His promises and has a purpose in everything He allows. Keep clinging, in good times and bad.
Me in 2007.