One Right Choice: A Letter to My Younger Self

I don't know why you were born in the United States to intelligent parents who had decided way back then to raise you earthy in the hippie way, homeschool you, love you unconditionally like Jesus taught them in the few simple verses they clung to even before they really knew Who they were following. I don't know why your childhood was golden, filled with woods and brothers and beauty. I don't know why it shattered because of one person who chose evil instead of good, and bludgeoned you with sexual abuse when you were just a tiny person of seven or eight years. Even now, at 33, I don't know the rest of the story. But I do know now a lot more than I knew then. I have a lot to tell you, the mixed up you of high school and college, the you that couldn't seem to get anything right, the you who didn't even know what Right was for her.

You were all mixed-up inside, an identity of confluence, two rivers so muddy you couldn't tell which defined you better - stoic Scandinavian or earthy Native. Tom-boy or girly-girl. Intellectual or athlete. Sister or daughter, friend or enemy. Straight and narrow or wide and easy. Straight or not straight. In the shadows or in the Son.

You tried to hammer it out in silence, writing poetry under a pseudonym published in the University art journal, yelling in your soul to a God whose very existence you sometimes questioned, beating your body on the ice at late night hockey practices even though your cardiologist told you to take it easy, for heaven's sake.

Sometimes you were obedient, even though it was hard. You didn't touch beer until your junior year, even though you wanted to at all those college parties, warning labels from cardiac meds ringing loud in your ears about sudden death and other side effects of mixing substances and the life-sustaining little green pills you popped like candy to keep you upright and breathing like a normal person. There were boyfriends you'd never had and wondered if you'd ever have. Girlfriends you had and wished you didn't. Confusion roiling where your uterus ached in that empty late teen way, full of latent dreams of babies and sexual perturbation, a womb full of memories of sharp physical abuse and the duller, deeper psychological wounds of the words that your abuser sank into your soul like poison arrows.

You kept classes on an altar because you couldn't go back and erase the mistakes that would derail your lifelong dream of being a professor like your dad. Your dad and your mom...those who sustained you, believed in you even when you proved you couldn't be trusted, who loved you when you weren't lovable, who were your scaffolding to a faith you'd lost faith in...those two people you wanted desperately to be like and desperately to love yet held at arms length, afraid of your secrets, afraid of consequences, afraid of disappointing them again. Afraid of breaking their hearts.

There were places to go and things to see on this great green earth, and you ached so badly with desire to see all of it and do all of it - the paddling, the descending of the mountains on your snowboard, the breathing of the thin air of mountains, the humid air of jungles and the salty air of seas. You were afraid of death just because how could heaven possibly be as beautiful as earth? And so you prayed, long and hard and often, even though you weren't sure He was listening, to live.

There were mistakes almost made, a man almost married just because he was a man willing to marry you, a man who didn't ask questions, who didn't seem to notice that you were a woman confused, a woman who loved other women a little too much, a little strangely. He didn't ask where all the hurt in your eyes came from, or why you hungered after marriage ravenously, as if it was salvation from some invisible curse you never mentioned. In return, all he asked of you was the same - that you ignore pornography and little white lies that really didn't matter, unexplained losses of time that should have been yours, pieces of his heart that should have been yours but never would be. And were you wise beyond all your confusion and your years, or was it just that tiny chip of remaining faith that kept you from peace, kept you begging questions about what love really felt like and whether or not it was okay to marry someone you didn't love that way? No one came out and told you not to marry him. But you remembered a snippet of a verse - the peace that passeth understanding - and one hot summer day, you realized beyond a doubt that you didn't have that, and you handed that little band of gold and glitter back to him and broke your promise and said you just couldn't. Even though you couldn't explain why. Somehow you knew that just good enough wasn't good enough at all and that there was more to life than just enough.

There were days you dreamed of nothing other than moving far, far away and giving up all you knew and giving in. Your heart broke because you were a sinner and you wanted that sin more than anything else you'd ever wanted. Yet at the same time, your heart broke for all the things having that sin would ruin - family, friends, life here in this place and time and space. All the people who would never be the same if you chose the hard and difficult and damning sin instead of the hard and difficult and tooth-and-nail fight of Right.

Because you chose the tooth-and-nail fight for Right, because you didn't throw it all away and flee to a far-off freedom away from the prying love eyes of family, He gave you family, more and more love eyes that pry and see when you falter and hearts that break when you stray - and shout Hallelujah! when you survive, thrive, and get it Right. 

Because you didn't choose just-good-enough, a husband who didn't ask questions because he really didn't care, He gave you a romance that has lasted 10 years and promises richer and fuller love for decades to come. He gave you this man, this oh-so-much-better than you deserve, kisses that flood your bones with a hunger you didn't know you had.

Because you yelled in your soul at a God you weren't sure even existed, He walked with you out into the light, and He filled the light with dozens of tiny people who proved to you He existed. He swarmed you with love so much greater than the greedy, paltry, carnivorous false love of that sin that enticed you, love that piles right on top of you and clings to you and never, ever lets go, even in the twilight when you'd rather be going to sleep instead of giving more kisses and telling more stories and tucking them in again.

For every beer you didn't drink at those parties, and every obedient swallow of those pills that helped your heart keep beating, He rewards you with crazy joy in oceans and on mountains. Your heart is still sick today, and there are still pills to swallow. A tiny machine in your chest keeps the ticker ticking. You still go to ERs and falter at the ledge of death sometimes. And when you're at the ocean and on the mountains, you aren't young and you aren't strong - all you can do is sit in those waves. But the joy in those experiences is richer because it was almost stolen, and you grip joy with both fists, for you are richly blessed and oh, how deeply you know it!

Even though you can't snowboard down real mountains anymore, hike 14ers, surf the big waves, He gave you little people to show the ways of adventure to. And when they grin at the end of the day when they've mastered a new trick, or when their squeals fill the air as they rocket down hills and flip on skateboards, it's your heart that explodes with glee, because you get to do this. You are still here. And behold, He is Right again - it is more blessed to give than to receive.

You didn't know that all those lessons about living and dying would teach you how to face cancer. You didn't know that fainting in public was your dress rehearsal for the public humiliation of wearing disease in the form of a bald head. You didn't know that when you got cancer at 28, you would skip to the head of the class because you'd already learned so many lessons about sickness and living with it and thriving anyway.

And for all the sacrifices of momentary pleasure for the sake of good grades and a good reputation at your university, He gave you your very own office at that same university. The opportunity to teach thousands of young nurses as they're just starting out. To teach them how to live their faith as they follow their calling. It was worth it, wasn't it?

Every prayer you offered up to travel the world and see every beauty this green earth offered, every prayer to defer heaven just a little bit longer so you could revel in the gift of time on earth...He took it and changed it, and sent you with your stethoscope and your wide eyed dreams to the corners of this impoverished planet.  And instead of a passive traveler, He let you be the hands and feet of Jesus, holding His beautiful, broken people in your hands and healing, and at the end of those days, you were speechless, and you sat in red earth and stared out at the alien landscape and all you could do was breath as tears ran down your cheeks. Because true joy is that incredible and profound - it silences and stills and leaves you completely wrecked.

You had no idea that the real break-down would come in your thirties, and leave you twitching, dead-eyed and afraid in a hospital, trying to find a lifeline in a whole Bible full of words that seemed suddenly empty. You didn't know that all those blessings you'd racked up in 10 years since choosing the Right would suddenly dry up and blow away like chaff in a puff of a hot wind of depression beyond any sorrow you'd known even in the darkest night of your sinning. You didn't know that the path out would once again be one simple choice, one little snippet of one little verse that you would anchor to and haul yourself out on, a bloody mess. 
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

When we name the heroes of the faith, we rattle off Amy Carmichael, Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, Billy Graham, Susanna Wesley, Helen Keller, Martin Luther, Elisabeth Elliot. Those who followed hard after Christ, sacrificing all for His glory, single-mindedly and whole-heartedly soldiering for the Gospel.

But I am not of their ilk. I am the sort who found one small Truth on which to cling in a stormy darkness full of questions...a C.S. Lewis, a Hudson Taylor, a Corrie ten Boom, an Augustine. I can only hope that in my remaining years, my questions will lead me to greater faith and actions that will bring God glory, that I might walk in the path of these great heroes of the faith, not just in their doubts, but in their belief as well.

When you were 20, you thought it was an either/or proposition, this living thing. Happy, or sad. Accepted, or rejected. Joyful, or living in darkness. Sinning, or following Jesus. Believing, or questioning.

It's not. It's a melting pot of all of this, a beautiful soup of all kinds of emotions, experiences, blessings and difficulties. Sometimes you are saved by just a glimpse of Truth that shines on the path and directs your steps. Sometimes you are defined by one little choice that cascades through your life like rain through a canopy of forest - first a drop or two, then a rushing waterfall, and finally the whole forest floor is watered and springing up with new life.

Thank you, Lord, for helping me make the Right decision when it counted. Thank you for this life. Thank you for these blessings. What a life it's been so far!

Celebrating my friend Bonnie's 1st FaithJam in 5 MONTHS!! Be sure to click the link & read some of the other letters.