To My Quarter-of-a-Century Self
You probably gathered from the title that it's my 25th birthday today!
In light of this new milestone and the fact that we're on the cusp of ending an unfathomably difficult year for the world, I thought I would try the therapeutic technique of writing a love letter to myself.
I've written letters to myself before, but not like this. Never had they had so much depth, so much emotion. Never had they been this hard to write, either. I remember when I was young I wrote a letter to my future 18-year-old self and it went something like, "I hope you have a boyfriend now...blah blah blah."
So yeah, this letter is just a bit different.
The process of writing this forced me to see the good in myself and in my current life state. It's far too easy to get caught up with all the areas in my life that still need growth. We all do this. Unfortunately, it's part of being human to be unsatisfied with who we are.
It's been this way since the beginning of the human existence written in Genesis 3:
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Even this early on in the world, humans were not satisfied with themselves and wanted to have wisdom to be on the same intellectual level as God. This dissatisfaction went so far as to bringing death upon us.
We're hard on ourselves--we want to be more, be better, be holier. There's always more fruit of the spirit to work on or commandments we have broken.
There's nothing wrong with wanting self-improvement, but it's when this desire for self-improvement becomes distorted into an obsession for acceptance that it's a problem.
Let's remember that God sent His son to die for us while we were still sinners. He loved us that much while we were still sinners. We read about this love, peace, and hope of Christ in Romans 5 (I highly recommend reading the whole chapter because it's just that good):
Peace and Hope 5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
So, friends, let's remember that we are children of God, and if the God of the universe loved us enough to die for us, we need to love ourselves. God met us right where we were--in the middle of our sin.
So why can't we meet ourselves where we are?
I challenge you to the act of writing a love letter to yourself:
Set aside some quiet time with a pen and a paper and examine your life
Be specific about your praises to yourself
Look at all that you went through in this past year
Write to yourself in the third person as an objective person viewing your life
Reverse the sad stigma on your struggles and acknowledge that you're going through them
Read the letter to yourself out loud when you're done
I think you'll be amazed by what you discover from this process.
Here is the letter that I wrote myself today. It's written here not to boast about the good things I'm seeing in myself, but to help change the way we do things in society. Maybe if we see other people loving themselves, we'll be able to love ourselves, too.
Yes, it's true. Today you're exactly a quarter-of-a-century old. The big 2-5.
I'm sure parts of you wonder how that's possible, and other parts of you think about all that's happened in the past year and question: How are you not 30 already?
It's true, many things have happened in the past year--things that you haven't even processed or unpacked yet. But that's okay, because I know you're on your way there.
I'm writing here to congratulate you. This past year of living has been the hardest of your life and you need to recognize that and be proud of how you're coping.
I know for a fact that you didn't imagine spending your 25th birthday in the U.S., teaching online that night for your job in the Philippines, while still being separated from the man you love for over 8 months due to a global pandemic.
You never imagined how 2020 would affect your mind, body, and soul.
You never imagined that you would come to a breaking point where you would need professional help in order to heal. You didn't see yourself relying on medications every morning and every night. You never thought you'd say the phrase, "My therapist says..."
You never imagined your relationship with God would fade into the dark distance, your mind too heavy to lift up a prayer to the heavens.
You never imagined you would be separated from your love, crying on the phone at nights because life is cruel and unfair and you didn't know when you'd see each other again.
You never imagined you would be caring for your students virtually, when you were struggling to care for yourself. You never thought the job you love would be this hard.
But when I look at you, I don't see those struggles, I see the actions you took.
I see you advocating for yourself to get help, even though you were terrified.
I see you diving deep into the word and prayer, even though you were exhausted.
I see you finding new ways to show your love to the man in your life, even though you're across oceans and time zones.
I see you listening to your students' struggles with an intentionality you never had before, even though you have struggles as well.
I see you, Mallory.
You're getting better at seeing yourself, too.
You're stopping and listening instead of burying every scary thought.
You're verbalizing more instead of staying silent.
You're being bold in areas where you have been meek.
My hope for this 25th year of your life is that you continue to see yourself where before you were too afraid to look.
May you see yourself clearer and love yourself harder with each passing day.