This is day 24 of 31 Days of Songs and Stories. For an index of all the posts in the series, click here.
If you could write a letter to your younger self, what would you say?
Even after reflecting on that question for a long time I’m not sure I have a clear answer.
Would I try to tell her something that would change her circumstances? Would I give her advice about how to respond? Would I encourage her in her worth and value, reassure her that she didn’t have to be perfect, make sure she understood that life wasn’t about pleasing other people- she could just be herself?
How would any of that change her life today?
It’s impossible to know. The difficulty is that, when I look back, the good and the bad are so intertwined that they are impossible to separate. The darkest, loneliest times are the times that have drawn me to God and, while there are things I wish had been different, I can also see that God was always there, and that he has worked a lot of good even in the midst of the bad.
I think if certain circumstances had been different I would have been more confident, I would have been happier, I would not have been held back so much by fear and anxiety, I would have felt more secure instead of basing my value on other people’s opinions, I would have been able to be myself instead of feeling I needed to hide…
…but I’m afraid that I might also have become self-sufficient and proud, that I might not have seen my need for God in the same way, that I might not have learned to turn to him and to pray to him at such an early age.
Bart Millard from MercyMe wrestles with the same question in the song “Dear Younger Me” and has the same difficulty in deciding what to say.
There is the same sense of seeing how things could have been different:
“If I knew then what I know now,
Condemnation would’ve had no power.
My joy my pain would’ve never been my worth.”
But also the sense that God is at work, using even the hard times:
“Every mountain, every valley,
Through each heartache you will see
Every moment brings you closer
To who you were meant to be,
Dear younger me, dear younger me.”
The story behind the song is also interesting. This short video explains a little bit about how it was written.
Interestingly, while I have never written a letter to the younger me, I did find a letter a while ago that I had written to the older me. I think I had written it when I was about 13 and it was meant to be opened on my 18th birthday. I can’t remember whether I knew where it was or opened it at that point, but obviously I still had it years later.
The main point of the letter is explaining why I followed Jesus as a 13 year old and why that was the most important thing, and telling myself that if I wasn’t still following him as an 18 year old I needed to sort myself out!
It encouraged me that, despite her faults and her issues and the situations she had to deal with, the younger me was doing okay. She definitely didn’t always get it right and she didn’t always practice what she preached, but deep down she had her priorities straight and she knew where her hope was to be found.
I think if I was to write to her, while I’m still not sure of everything I would say, I’d want to give her that same encouragement to keep going, keep following Jesus. I’d want to encourage her that God is with her, that he’s not going to let go of her through everything that lies ahead, and I’d want to assure her of her identity, that no matter what others may say or what she may think, these words from the song describe who she truly is.
“You are holy,
You are righteous,
You are one of the redeemed.
Set apart, a brand new heart,
You are free indeed.”