Writing this post was easy. Making it public has been hard. I've been sitting on it for a few weeks now, not quite able to hit "publish" because I know who will read this, and leaving myself this exposed feels too risky. But stronger than that is my belief that this piece of my story will resound with many people. I have seen first-hand how many others have been in or are in a place similar to mine; to share my heart gives them a voice they may have not yet found and makes their places feel not quite as lonely.
The idea of writing a letter to my younger self came after a dear friend had the privilege of contributing to a new book called Letters to Me. I have not yet read the book or any excerpts (if I did, I think I would be intimidated enough by "real" writers to never ever publish this post), so I don't know exactly how those letters will flow. I do know that my own letter is written to myself at the point in time I may have benefited most from reading it.
To my 17-year old self,
You are about to make a decision that will set the course of your heart and affect you for many years. I wonder, if you could know the things at 17 that you will know at almost 30, if you would still make that decision. And I wonder how different my heart and life would look now were it not for this journey you are about to begin.
If I could tell you all the lessons I've learned over the past twelve years, this is what I would want you to know: dieting is about control, and you like control. Losing weight feels good, and nothing feels better than jeans that have become too big. When people compliment you on your weight loss it will boost your confidence, but those compliments also raise the bar of your expectations. No matter how much weight you lose it will never be enough. A shrinking waistline is not perceivable by your eyes. The mirror you look into will always reflect curves too wide, features too ugly, a body too imperfect. All your diets will eventually come to an end, and none of the results you worked so hard for will stay. In fact, each time you diet you will gain back more weight than you lost.
A few years from now you will consciously walk into the biggest battle of your life. You will take on the ultimate diet, and for a time you will succeed. But you will measure success by the size of your jeans rather than victories won in the spiritual battle for your heart. It will be a long battle, one that rages on even after you start eating again. Because really, the issue isn't about food or weight loss or physical beauty. Your perception of those things is so very skewed, and they manifest because they reflect the deeper wounds that have sliced into the innermost places that are known not even by you.
What you seek is acceptance and unfailing love, and you look to the approval of others to make you complete. But even the best of what others can offer is tainted and limited by the flesh. Only One is able to fill you to overflowing, and oh how He loves you! If only you could know how deeply this love satisfies, that all else pales in comparison...but I don't know how to tell you that to its fullest, because even now I haven't learned how to let Him be all.
I don't know how to tell you to learn the lessons without first experiencing the consequences. I think maybe it's a road you will have to stumble down, because you can't get the to the end result without making the journey that leads you there. There are things now that I wish you would have done differently then. But it's those things you've done that are the building blocks of who you've become. Right now you wish you could be anyone else. But that will change. One day you will be glad to be you.
So, young one, search for God's love and approval above all else. If you lose sight of that, you will lose who you are. You will find the friendships you've always longed for, and soon. There are many friends you will make along each segment of your journey, and they will become very dear to you. In fact, one day you will realize how many of these special people are in your life and wonder how God ever saw fit to bless you so richly.
Always always ALWAYS pray. Never stop, even when you reach those months and years that become the darkest and most difficult. You will make it through, and He will restore and redeem your broken places. You are valued, loved, and beautiful. Hold tight, child. Hold tight to Him.