If you could travel back in time to when you were five years old to impart a single message to yourself that would enrich your life what would it be?
My short, fun answer would be: invest in Google. But I have a hard time with short and fun. I’m more of a “ponder till you find depth” kinda girl. So, my entire afternoon has been filled with thoughts. Permit me to write them down in letter form. Call it cheap therapy.
Dear 5 year old Keri,
Life is pretty good for you right now. You are deeply cherished by your family. Life is fun and carefree. But it won’t always be that way.
In about 10 years your family will disintegrate. It will be sudden, unexpected, and ugly. Instead of processing the destruction of your parent’s marriage, you will pretend that nothing happened. You’ll stuff your feelings, and put on a smile. This is the beginning of a habit that will stick with you into adulthood.
High school will pretty much suck. You’re dad’s drinking will get worse, your mom will be absent, and your brother will need you to take care of him. You’ll have to grow up really fast. And you will. You will step up and take care of the men in your life.
It’s not all bad though. While home life may be a mess, you do meet someone to help you. Jesus. You know all those questions you have about life and meaning? Well, Jesus is the answer. And when you finally meet Him… it will all make sense.
Another good thing happens in High School. You’ll meet someone and fall in love. Shortly after High School you will marry him. And you will be given ample opportunity to put those marriage vows to the test. There will be a lot of “worse” before there is a glimmer of “better”. You will push him away, afraid that he too will abandon you. Things will get really dark. So dark that you’ll want to give up. But don’t! Because one day you will find the light again. And something amazing will happen. You’ll discover a love that you never thought possible. A love that you’ve only read about in cheesy romance novels. One day you’ll quit pretending that you have a wonderful marriage, because you will actually have one.
You know all those things that you’re afraid of? Those things that keep you from sleeping at night? Most of them will never happen. Some will. You’ll lose your Noni to cancer. And you’ll miss her. You’ll miss her more than you can imagine. You’ll be broke. You’ll bounce checks. You’ll lose a job or two. You’ll be in a few car wrecks (your biggest fear at five). But you’ll survive it all. You’ll sit beside hospital beds of loved ones, stand beside graves, and wonder where God is. You’ll lose friends. You’ll be a crappy friend. But through it all, you will grow.
I wish I could tell you not to worry so much about what others think. You’ll waste a lot of time trying to make your parents proud. The truth is, for many years they’ll be too wrapped up in their own pain to even notice you. But they’ll come around. And they will one day tell you all the things you’re longing to hear. And those girls, the ones with flat tummies and perfect hair. Well, you’ll forget all about them. Those boys that look through you and the nights without dates, you’ll treasure those times. It’s the boys you’ll cling to to find your worth that you’ll regret.
Friends will be few and far between. The pattern you start in High School of keeping people at arm’s length will continue for many years. As a defense mechanism you’ll lock your heart up in a fortress, and you’ll push a lot of people away. But there will be a few who stick around. A few that will see through the pain enough to love you, in spite of you. Hold on to them. Trust them with your heart.
They’ll be good times too. You’ll get to be a momma. And it’s even better than you think it will be. You’ll get the “happily ever after”. Only it won’t look like what you think it will. It won’t be a perfect life. There will be no wealth, no picket fence, no elaborate vacations. But it will be a full life. Full of meaning, and joy, and love. Full of life. And it will be beautiful.
I’ve learned something recently about beauty. In the absence of the ugliness of life beauty is simply common. It is nothing to behold. It will not inspire you or take your breath away. But in the presence of lack, in the midst of the dark, ugly places in life… beauty is glorious. It is magical.
So I say to you, precious girl. Don’t hide your eyes from the darkness. Don’t try to avoid the things you fear. Because God will see you through and it will all be worth it one day.