Dear Me at 16,
First, take a deep breath and try to relax. You're not receiving this letter because you are bad or in trouble.
To the contrary, I'm writing to you because I care about you and I know that it's hard for you to let others be caring toward you. You feel exposed and vulnerable, wondering if the person will stumble across all those imperfections that you work so hard to hide. You feel afraid of how they might judge you if they knew how needy, fragile and broken you actually are behind your put-together facade.
I want to let you know that it's not your fault that you are this way. At least, it's not entirely your fault. Your desire to encourage and help other people is a wonderful, God-given part of your personality that influences you to put yourself in the position of helper. And this is an important part of how God has made you because it relates to the high calling that He has placed on your life to partner with Him in restoring people. Being the oldest of five children and always being complimented on your helpfulness to your mom and your maturity and responsibility have also contributed to your idea that you have to be helpful. You think that this is all people want from you and you fear that they will reject you if you don't provide it. In this way, how you are fearfully and wonderfully made by God has been used against you by the enemy and this broken, sinful world.
Jody, there is much more to you than just being able to meet everyone's needs all the time. You have a really tender heart, a great sense of humor, a natural enthusiasm and a creative mind, just to name a few other qualities. I encourage you to try sharing your real self with people more often. Your friends will actually feel closer to you when you do this. Their hearts will be moved with compassion if you tell them how much you really struggle with asking for help, feeling afraid and pressure to be perfect. It will be easier for them to accept you because they will actually have a chance to know you and you will feel such powerful affirmation of who you are in letting yourself be known.
When you feel discouraged, weary and alone, let God and other people love on you. Confide in them that you have these feelings and allow them to care for you. This will feel scary at first because it will mean that you are at the center of the conversation and you receive prayer and encouragement and it's possible that other people will resent you for having needs and asking for them to be met. It's more likely that God will actually comfort your heart in such a way that the painful feelings lose their sharpness and hope can take root again. When you encounter all of your imperfect parts, don't hide them away. Bring them to God and bring them into community so that they can soak up grace and love and be healed. Start thinking of yourself as a really precious person who is worthy of care, attention and love from God and others. Don't be ashamed that you want and need it and don't be afraid to ask for it.
Remember that sanctification is a process based on relationship. As you grow in relationship with God, He will change you and make you more like Him. He will not finish this work until the day that Christ Jesus returns for you, so please be patient and gentle with yourself when you encounter the unfinished parts. Enjoy friendship with God and the deep peace and joy that come from being chosen and accepted by Him. Let Him do the transformation work that is needed and remember that this is a work He really, really enjoys. You are not a burden to Him, but a great delight.
You have a wonderful future ahead of you and God's going to bring you into a wonderful, spacious place of freedom from fear and perfectionism. Just lean into Him, be still and know that He really is God and He will do the work you need.
I love you with the love that He has lavished on me,
Me at 31
Thank you Emily P. Freeman for this wonderful exercise! www.chattingatthesky.com