A Letter to My Younger Self
As I look at this photo taken 20 years ago this month, I can’t help but think how young and eager you look! Perhaps I should entitle this letter after Dr. Seuss’ book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, because of how adventuresome your next two decades will be—the 18 countries you’ll visit and the amazing variety of people you’ll meet. And yet, as thrilling as the outward adventure will be, it is small in comparison to the upcoming adventure in your relationship with Christ: Oh, how He loves you!
Some ideas to consider as you embark on this journey:
REST: Campus Crusade is an active and aggressive mission, and therefore energetic and get-it-done people are drawn to it. Thank God for that. But remember who He has made you to be—a woman whose design contours the more “passive” side of following Jesus, the discipline of solitude, the receiving of Him as our Sabbath rest, listening in stillness.
Consider the words of Eugene Peterson as you embrace both activity and passivity: “We neither manipulate God (active voice) or are we manipulated by God (passive voice). We are involved in the action and the participation in its results, but do not control or define it (middle voice).” This is a glorious tension: We are not God, nor are we invisible and powerless. Living in middle voice requires both humility and boldness, two qualities we see in perfect measure in the Son of man, the Son of God–Jesus Christ Himself. He is our model. And we are to pattern our lives after His rhythms. You will need to remember Him when the natural tension rises.
CREATE: No one will make the life you want for you. Join the great Creator in designing a life that is beautiful to you. Resist the temptation to follow others’ dreams. Take the time to hear Him speak of the dream He has given you. It’s easier to copy others, but in time, it will become uncomfortable, like an ill-fitting coat that doesn’t belong to you. Lean into the discipline of reflection–the art of listening–to whose you are and what you need to flourish. Create community among families, children and friends. You will need this to fight the isolation that comes with long years of singleness and lonely leadership.
Create a rich reservoir of literary friends, writers and thinkers who have plumbed the depths of despair and found solid ground. People whose words provide context to your journey and joy in the spiritual high and lowlands. They will become critical companions whose thoughts will come alongside you in times of need and of abundance. Create beauty in your surroundings, as simple as fresh flowers or cinnamon candles or soft sheets. Your soul will delight in the “richest of fare,” for beauty helps you love well and soothes a broken world. You will see and experience much of the world’s brokenness. Create beauty.
WAIT: Oh, how this discipline will save you from making lots of mistakes! And how it will try your soul when all you want to do is move—to the next thing, to the next relationship, to the next home, assignment or escape! God is in no hurry, for we have all of eternity stretched out before us to become like Him. He is never early (alas!), but remember He is never late either. Consider His commitment to you while you wait: “ . . . the moment we get tired in the waiting, [His] Spirit is right alongside, helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, . . . and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be sure every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good (Romans 8:26-28, The MESSAGE). It will be helpful, again, to consider how Jesus lived the rhythm of waiting and moving forward, according to author Sue Monk Kidd: “One day when I was reading in the gospels, it occurred to me that when important times of transition came for Jesus, he entered enclosures of waiting—the wilderness, a garden, the tomb. Jesus’ life was a balanced rhythm of waiting on God and expressing the fruits of that waiting.”
LOVE GRACE: Every morning you will wake up wanting to prove that you are good and that you are right. Many of your greatest battles will be forged fighting the fact that you are neither good nor right. Surrender now and your relationships with God, others and yourself will become much easier. There is One who is both good and right (all the time), and He covers you. Cease striving and rest in His goodness, His “rightness” and His amazing grace. It’s impossible for love to come in (or go out!) when you seek to retreat from people or alternately suffocate them. Relating as if you are always good and right will keep you safe, protected and invulnerable. And that’s no way to live or to love. Only God’s grace will give you the courage to live without condemning yourself or others. Judy, love grace and believe it’s free and good news indeed! Remember the words of Dr. Tim Keller: “The gospel is the dynamic for all heart-change, life-change, and social-change. Change won’t happen through ‘trying harder’ but only through encountering with the radical grace of God.”
Here’s to another 20 years!
With affection in Christ, your older self,