Look How Far You've Come

rear view mirror smI took a class a few months ago and was given the assignment to write a letter to my 20 year-old self and share some of what I’ve learned in life. Writing the letter was a surprisingly moving experience, as was sharing it with the class. We discovered just how much we’d learned along life’s road, and wondered what lessons the future holds. I thought I’d share my letter with you, in the hopes that it might encourage you to give the exercise a try:

Dear Younger Me,

 You have a lot of years ahead of you. That’s an amazing gift, but make no mistake…they will fly by you like the frames of a movie and the credits will roll sooner than you want to believe. I suspect that it was a senior citizen who coined the phrase “Carpe Diem”, because more often than not we don’t understand the value of a day until most of them are in the rear view mirror. I’m writing to urge you to seize each day, to tighten your grip, and to pass on to you a few of the things I’ve learned along the way.

 Let’s start with your identity. You are not defined by what you own or what you wear. You are not defined by the size of your house or bank account. And you are not what you do. You are not the accumulation of your achievements and you are not defined by your failures. You are a spark from the Divine Flame. You are a child of God. You are a registered citizen of the Cosmos. That means that you are loved, worthy and never alone. That was true before God breathed life into you and it will be true when God breathes you back in. Don’t give your identity away to anyone or anything else. 

 Fear is the bully that will plague your life. He will tell you that you’re not enough. Don’t believe him. He will tell you that your failures are fatal, that it’s safer to hold your heart close and not to extend your grasp too far. Call his bluff. He will tell you to start tomorrow what you could start today. Spit in his eye. He will seek to grab you by the scruff of the neck and push your head under into a pool of anxiety called the great unknown. Laugh in his face. There will come a day when you’re ready and the bully called fear will tap you on the shoulder, and you will turn to kick the bastard to the curb, and on that day you will discover that all along fear has been a figment of your own imagination. That will be a very good day indeed.

 You already know that life can be hard. You already know that the pathway forward is filled with obstacles of all shapes and sizes. What you don’t yet know is that each is a gift. Not because God put them there to teach you a lesson. Flush that theology down the throne as soon as you can. They are instead the inevitable bumps and mountains along the road of life, and each is an opportunity to die, to die to an old way of thinking, feeling or being…and to rise again. The ancient word is true: God really is able to bring good out of every circumstance. Dare to believe that so that you’ll never waste a good crisis. Never be afraid to die. Resurrection and restoration are woven into the fabric of all things living, including you.

And finally, dare to believe that the fullness you seek, the aliveness for which your hearts yearns, will be found in giving yourself away for others. This is the great paradox of life and faith. You’ll find your life by giving it away, but if you cling to it too tightly you’ll live in deadness of soul. If you want more joy, give joy to others. If you want more love, love others. Life is an investment account with better returns that you dare to dream. 

 Jeff

Now go ahead – write your younger self a letter and give voice to what you’ve learned in life. If you’d be willing to share it, I’d love to read it!

Jeff Marian is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

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  • Kay Erickson

    Stunning! Thanks for sharing.

    • Jeffrey Marian

      Thanks Kay.