An Open Letter to Myself, from Myself
You have learned many important lessons in your 32 years of life thus far. Some lessons have taken longer to learn than others. Some you have had to revisit over and over again. The fact is, what you don’t review or practice, you have a tendency to forget. It’s quite possible you may even be too dense to realize that you are presently in the middle of a lesson of which you are completely unaware. Clearly, you have not arrived. So as summer is upon you and you are careful to make sure your little ones’ brains don’t turn into complete mush amidst their scholastic break, be certain not to neglect yourself in the matter. You. Self. No brain mush, you hear?
- You’re aware that you don’t have it all together, and that’s a good thing because it makes it easier to trust God to hold it all together for you. Still, don’t simply acknowledge your lack and leave it where it is. That’s fruitless. Make efforts for improvements, not excuses.
- There’s no point in getting mad at the weather man. There are 3 consistencies in life: God’s love never changes, life operates in seasons much like the weather, and the only thing you can depend upon with weather is that it will change. Put your confidence in the unchanging factor, and don’t be mad about the weather. It is what it is, and it won’t be forever.
- You are a “doer”. And when the physical state of your body doesn’t allow you to “do”, you tend to feel defeated. And when your body does allow you to “do” you overcompensate to make up for lost time and neglect other things of importance. Both approaches leave you spread thin and exhausted. Say yes to rest, whether intentional or not.
- Hurt feelings don’t have to equal hard feelings. You may not be an easily offended person when it comes to the petty and mundane… not often even when it comes to an intentional jab. When you do get hurt, it’s typically from something fiercely meaningful and you hurt hard. The good aspect is that you are allowing your heart to become soft enough to be vulnerable. Most of the time what hurts you the most deeply wasn’t intended to hurt you at all. Recognize the areas where this may be your own fault due to misplaced expectations, and remove them (the expectations, not the people). Where you aren’t responsible, extend grace and forgiveness. Don’t shut down or shut people out because of the risk. When you preemptively numb yourself to the hurt, you numb yourself to the hope and healing too. Despite how introverted you can be in certain areas, you need people. And they need you.
- You can’t be all things to all people. Sometimes people will expect things of you when it’s not in your place to deliver it in that season. Sometimes it’s because you are incapable, and sometimes it’s because it’s alright to say no to one thing so that you are available to give a better yes somewhere else. That’s okay.
- Sometimes caring isn’t enough. Don’t use the aforementioned lesson to cop out of doing things out of your comfort zone that are the better yes. There are times when all you should extend are words, and other times you will need to extend yourself.
- Confrontation isn’t always the equivalent of a divisive spirit. Sometimes, you require confronting. People can mean well and believe their hearts are in the right place and still be wrong. But they may be wrong amidst really caring and wanting what’s best, not because thy have an underlying goal of destruction. Extend grace. The heart is deceptive. Likewise, self, your heart is deceptive. Sometimes you are flat wrong. So when you find your blood boiling or your heart sinking amidst the wake of conflict, ask yourself, “Is there any iota of truth in what has been placed before me?” If nothing comes to mind, search out if it’s because of that deceptive, self-preserving heart of yours. (It may or may not be). Ask God, “Is there anything about myself that needs changing to line up with Your Word and Your will? Is there anything of value You want me to take from this? Remove the scales from my eyes.” Listen. And then, change if necessary.
- Use your brain, but don’t get lost in your head. God has given you wisdom. Refer to it. Apply the wisdom. But don’t get so lost overthinking your own knowledge and understanding that you can’t see past the end of your nose. Self, remember that time in college when you ran into a classmate from high school who you thought never liked you and had it out for you? You began your part of the conversation with, “I know we didn’t get along back then, but…” Then that person was taken aback and said, “We didn’t ?!” And suddenly, when you thought you were making amends, you had actually unnecessarily hurt someone’s feelings who was completely unaware of your perception. One idea got under your skin, festered beneath your skull and you tried to make sense of it in your head. But instead you got lost in an imaginary drama that was actually a non-issue. People can be completely unaware of your reception of their actions, and your perception is not always reality. Just say no to festering. It’s gross.
- You will be misunderstood. There’s no way around it, and you are just going to have to learn to accept that. You may appear differently than you are in health, age, intelligence, or walk of life and people naturally make assumptions. (See the aforementioned perception lesson: no one is immune). Sometimes it’s because people want to be offended in order to justify their own agendas, anger or desires, regardless of truth. Other times, it’s your fault via a tactless delivery or poor timing, a relapse of your open-mouth, insert-foot syndrome that you have worked so hard to overcome, or any other myriad of ways in which you could potentially choose wrongly. You may need to ask forgiveness in some cases, be gracious in all cases, but you don’t need to prove yourself. You don’t need to seek validation outside of the cross of Christ. He is your identity. You need to care with love and humility, and you don’t need to obsess with arrogance, disdain or perfectionism. You are fully known by God.
- Past regrets are not indicative of present weakness. Culture has popularized the idea of. “I don’t have any regrets because my mistakes made me who I am today.” Self, if who you are today has any amount of goodness in it, it is by the grace of God allowing you to move beyond your mistakes and poor choices, not because they made you. It makes sense to regret something that was wrong. That’s what helps compel you to aim for what’s right. Have regrets, but don’t let your regrets have you. And by all means, don’t give your poor choices the positive credit for defining you.
- Don’t be a passive/ aggressive social media poster or in-person conversationalist. Puffing yourself up with “likes” from a cleverly-worded post or snide comment in order to injure someone else, affirm your “side”, or your “point”, or your self-perceived “righteous” anger, it kicks humility to the curb. It is in direct opposition to the character of Christlikeness that you are usually hoping to aim for. It is self-deceiving, pride-serving, and typically bares your areas of arrogance and insecurity to the world. You will probably feel foolish for it later and this will likely become one of those regrets God’s grace will have to carry you past. Just because you feel as though something needs to be said for your benefit, doesn’t mean that it needs to be heard for anyone else’s. You’ve heard of measure twice, cut once. Pray twice, and cut it out. Really. I know you, because I am you. (That’s the whole benefit of this self-to-self thing). If you feel like it’s sooooooo pressing to drive a point home and you feel rushed to get it out or the world will implode, pray twice as long as you think you have to. Wait a day or two. And if it’s still valid, pray some more and then maybe say something (preferably the right and fully appropriate thing) if it’s a really important, valid issue that you can address humbly without personal agenda. Otherwise, go to your room until you can play well with others. (Being blatently aggressive is probably a bad idea too). When at all possible, be a person of peace.
- Use scripture to encourage yourself often, but only do so in a way that is actually biblical, especially publicly. Context is your friend. You aren’t always the seed sower, or the brother with the speck, or the fruitful branch, sometimes you’re the hard soil, or the brother with the plank, or the branch that needs pruning. And sometimes these verses have nothing to do with your present situation even though you may be tempted to manipulate them to sound like they do. When in doubt, read more, speak less.
- God gave you a spectacular family. Don’t take that for granted. Soak in the strong arms and the couple’s kissess interrupted by group hugs, the squeezes and sloppy smooches and gapped-tooth grins, the endless chatter, the insightful depth, the rock, the compassion and the love that you have been afforded. Delight in your husband and your children. And when your 4 year old comes running to you from across the house and interrupts your make-up application, clings to you like a baby monkey and squishes his cheeks against yours just to tell you, “I wanted to find you because I wuv you,” go ahead and melt. Latch on and squish into your Heavenly Father in just the same way.
- If you can’t get someone off your mind, pray for them. It may be the Holy Spirit prompting you for a really important reason that may be revealed later, or something you may never know. And even if it is little more than a thought, extra prayer never hurt anybody.
- Don’t neglect your dear friendships. How to go about this may need to change with the seasons, but don’t leave them to starve.
- I know that your head is spinning and your ears are ringing and you walk into walls and drop things and can hardly lift up you neck sometimes, your body does strange things, and your thoughts don’t form into coherency. But let the first word on your lips and the mediation of your awakening heart be Jesus. Once you can lift your head and open your eyes, pour His Word in. Don’t neglect Him. He is your dearest friend of all. In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.
So Self, how are you doing so far? I see there are a few lessons that you have already had to revisit today alone. This letter is lengthy and by no means comprehensive. But I hope that it will help you to avoid the summer cerebral slump. You can do it! We fall down, but we get up.
You are loved, you are valuable. You are stronger than you think you are. He makes you brave. Nothing is wasted.