Rebekah, here. I remember what it was like to be a teenager. It's been awhile and I can't imagine how much harder/weirder it is in this current culture but I still remember those days pretty clearly. Every time I see you walking with your friends in the mall, sitting in a Starbucks with your mom and what appears to be some really annoying younger siblings or sitting in front of me at church looking bored to death....I am transported back to being 17 in the blink of an eye.
I remember the days I cried and didn't know why. The days it really did matter that the guy I liked totally ignored me. The rare occasions when my outfit felt perfect and that mattered even more. The first kiss. The first breakup. The sports. The friends, both good and bad.
I don't know you personally, but I want to share with you some things that flash through my mind when I see you. Some things that I do know. Seven things to be exact. I really hope these make you feel less alone and maybe even make your day or your future a little better.
1 – I KNOW YOU ARE SMART
I know that you think about real things: deep things. I know you read things on the Internet and try to find answers when no one is looking. Answers to questions that people don’t even think you have. Answers about your body, about your feelings, about God, and about boys. I know you have a lot going on in your head all the time. You talk a lot but you hardly ever say what’s really on your mind. Your friends and family think you are still 12. Some have failed to realize that you are in fact....growing up. I know that all your immature friends bother you but you act just like them to fit in. I know TV puts you in a little LOL, OMG, I-only-care-about-clothes, bubble when in reality, you are wicked smart. I know you are.
2 – I KNOW SOME OF YOU HAVE THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD ON YOUR SHOULDERS
Your parents fight all the time and you try to protect your younger siblings. You carry a secret of abuse. You are addicted to something. You have general anxiety that cripples you that nobody knows about. You have done something you feel shame about and you think your family would disown you if they knew. Some of you have no friends at school, at all.
I don’t know what it is, I just know that some of you carry a heavy weight and you don’t have the words or safety to express it...yet.
Here is my advice to you. Write. Pray. Let God translate your feelings for you. Let Him carry your burden. Talk to a trusted friend, parent or mentor if you can but if you can’t, use this time in your life to discover the most beautiful thing of all – prayer really does help and you really do have a Helper. If you learn this now and you will have peace throughout your life that will take you far.
3- I KNOW SOME OF YOU ARE CONFUSED ABOUT SEX
Some of you could care less about it and wish people would stop talking about it. Some of you are already preoccupied with being “sexy.” Others of you are already doing it. Some people say wait, others say do it. You just want to be loved - like everyone else.
Your sexuality will not make you (like society says) and it also won’t break you (like some churches say). Sex is not the key to making your boyfriend love you and waiting until marriage doesn’t guarantee anything either to be honest.
Simply put the Bible makes it clear that sex is supposed to be for a married couple. If you choose to ignore what God designed it for you will suffer some kind of consequence. Emotional, now or later. Physical, now or later. Death in your spiritual life. Blows to your self-esteem. Something. Did you know that there are endless new studies (both secular and Christian based) that link teenage sexual activity to depression? In fact, a lot of people have started calling depression The Emotional STD (http://drjamesdobson.org/articles/courage-in-the-home/the-emotional-std)
I say, be smart. Be different. Different is empowering. And please realize that a lot of other people wait. You are not weird.
4- I KNOW YOU DON’T LOVE YOURSELF YET
Shoot, you don't even know yourself yet. Being a young woman is weird. Your body is…weird. Your emotions are…new. It’s almost impossible to be comfortable in your own skin. Give it a few years. It might take the confidence-building experience of being away at college, your first heartbreak, the discovery of your passions or simply time.
There is beauty in the awkwardness of self-discovery. You can't fake confidence anyway so just relax and let it settle on you. Ignore all the stuff you see on the TV. You know, all the Kylie Jenners of the world who look and act 33. That's not real life.
No matter what you think about your body and yourself right now; there will come a day when you wake up and realize that not only is it awesome to be a girl but that you really like being you. JUST TRUST ME ON THIS ONE.
5- I KNOW YOU ARE SELFISH
Not really on purpose though. You have been told to be, encouraged to be. The marketing industry spends billions of dollars each year targeting women of your age. They have started using the “build up their ego” strategy to sell you things. So whether it’s on TV, in a magazine or in the songs that you hear you are getting a lot of “you rock,” “there is nobody as unique as you,” “do what makes you happy,” “you can be/do anything you want,” “you shouldn’t have to change for anybody," "girls rock, boys are stupid" kind of messages.
These messages feel good because everyone wants life to be all about THEM. But honestly, the messages aren’t true, and life isn’t all about you.
I'm serious. Life. isn't. all. about. you.
Is that mean of me? No. It's honest and someday you will thank me for my honesty. Maybe today. It feels kind of good to get the focus off YOU, doesn’t it?
See, the sooner you figure out that a focus on SELF never leads to real joy…the better. Don’t you see…The world is encouraging you to be selfish, all day, everyday because they want you to BUY STUFF. Not because they care about you. BE ON GUARD AGAINST THAT. Selfishness even in small amounts will cause you to hurt the people you love. Selfishness in large amounts ultimately leaves people miserable and alone.
Disclaimer: Self-care is not selfish. For some reason I hear a lot of teen girls tell me that they put up with mean friends, clingy stalker guys, abusive people, etc. all in the name of being "Christian" and "nice." I'm not telling you to let people use and abuse you. Boundaries and self-protection aren't selfish. They are smart.
Bottom line - think about being humble, think about helping others. Stop thinking about your stuff and your looks…that is just a really good way to waste your youth.
6- I KNOW YOUR FRIENDSHIPS MATTER A LOT
Female friends matter, a lot. The desire to be “popular” will go away, the desire to have trusted female friends will not.
If you don’t have great friends yet, don’t fret. I made most of my best friends in college. If you do, awesome. What makes a great friend? A girl who can keep your secrets. (Don’t waste time with a girl who talks about you behind your back.) A girl who laughs with you, not at you. (Don’t waste your time on mean girls.) A girl who will make you a big part of her life even when she has a boyfriend! A girl who does as much listening to you as she does talking about herself. A girl who helps you hold your standards, not one who makes you feel stupid for having them. Look for these kinds of friends.
Friendships are a tender thing. Here is my best advice. First, never forget that to have good friends you have to be one. Re-read that entire list I just wrote and make sure YOU are those things. If not, pull yourself together and start being nicer! Second, friendships are organic. You can’t force them. They take time. If you latch on to someone too fast (guy or girl) you will probably push them anyway.
7- I KNOW GOD WILL LEAD YOU ON ADVENTURES YOU NEVER THOUGHT POSSIBLE
I get it. You want to be free. Brave. Strong. See the world. Do everything. Be everything. I remember writing a letter to myself my freshmen year of college about everything I wanted to do. “I want to be in a magazine. I want to see the world. I want to ice-skate in Time Square at Christmas time. I want to fall in love. I want to be the best sister and daughter in the world. I want to watch a thousand sun rises.” For four pages I wrote all the things I wanted to do and become.
I still have that letter and you know what? I’ve done almost everything on the list. Not because I have a lot of money or because I looked at every year and purposefully checked off each one. I just took risks and trusted that God had me.
Please don’t buy the lie that the only great adventure is falling in love. Please don’t buy the lie that God is safe and thus boring. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “God is not safe, but He is good.” Please don’t buy the lie that the greatest adventure is being on TV or becoming famous. Smile bursting, heart breaking, blood pumping, soul soaring adventure can be yours when you follow God without fear.
And the world needs you to follow God without fear. Yes, You.
Pretty, confused Starbucks girls....you have no idea the up’s and down’s that are going to come your way. You have no idea how much God (and most likely your parents!) love you. You also have no idea how much you will grow to love yourself, life, and others – if you love God first.
You have endless choices, I know.
From the way, way bottom of my heart,