"He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure." Psalm 40:2

Dear 16-year-old Me {30 Chances to Get to Know Me Series}

{Note: This is a slightly updated version of a post originally published in January 2014 on another blog I had formerly.}

This is post #4 in the 30 Chances list. The assignment is: List 10 things you would tell your 16-year-old self, if you could.

I truly believe it would do young women a lot of good if more older women were willing to speak the hard truths that need to be spoken into a young lady’s life.

When I was 16 I was a mess, even by the world’s standards. I began imploding at about 14, a while after my parent’s divorce and in the midst of some other trials. I had no real faith, no foundation, and no basic reason for believing that my life or anything I did really mattered. Because I lacked a solid foundation, I sought my pleasure, fulfillment, and worth in idols of all shapes and sizes…and no idol is ever able to deliver on its empty promises. If I had the chance to speak to my 16-year-old self I’d say some hard things:

1.) Don’t fear failure.
I know it’s hard because they never seems to stop, but you must stop listening to the voices of negativity and condemnation ringing in your ears. Ungodly fear will cripple you in so many ways. The truth is that failure is not a bad thing, and you’re not less of a person for it. The key to directing the impact of your failures lies in your reaction to them. Don’t despair! Meditate on what you can learn from that failure, and then either persevere (if it’s a worthy pursuit) or move on (if your lesson was that you were striving after the wrong thing). Be thankful when you try but fail, and don’t hate yourself for it. Evaluate, learn from it, and carry on.

2.) Fear spending your life succeeding at things that really do not matter.
Godly fear, on the other hand, can be exceedingly helpful. Take an honest look at what you’re pursuing, darlin’. Do these things matter? Will they matter in a week? In a month? Ten years from now? I can tell you firsthand what will matter this far down the road: your relationship with Christ, your character, your part in earthly relationships, and your stewardship of the resources and opportunities God’s given you. Stop pursuing all this other junk. It’s not worth your time or energy, and the thought of “success” in the “junk” should scare you.

3.) Your worth isn’t based on whether people accept or reject you.
You’ll realize down the road that mom’s departure wasn’t your fault. You’ll better understand that both humans in any relationship are sinners, and that you’re not solely to blame for your relationships falling apart. You’ll see that when those you loved dearly rejected you it wasn’t just about rejecting you personally. They had their own problems, too. Their sinful actions were ultimately sin against God, based in their own selfishness, so you have to be careful not to take the rejection too personally. Also, your worth isn’t in what you accomplish, or the opinions of others – your worth is in your being created by God, in His image, and being redeemed by Him and adopted into His family. Your worth is evidenced in Christ’s sacrifice for you, and God’s loving care for you. Every person on earth could hate you and disapprove of you and reject you, yet your worth would not be diminished one bit. It will save you a lot of heartache and dysfunction if you could just understand these things now.

4.) Give your family a break and help out, already!
Look past your own nose long enough to see that you’re swimming in the murky waters of selfishness right along with everyone else close to you. Disconnect for a moment from your victimized feelings of rejection and observe the hurting, rejected people around you. What can you do to make their life easier? How can you comfort them in their distress? How can you encourage them? How can you help them practically? Stop worrying so much about yourself and see how you can serve others instead. You might be surprised at how much better you feel.

5.) Chase Christ.
Stop chasing boys. Stop chasing popularity. Stop chasing affection. Stop chasing material things. Chase Christ! Pursue Him! He is the only One that will satisfy you. Nothing and no one else you’re chasing will. He is the only One who will change you, help you, comfort you, and cherish you. All the rest is vanity, plain and simple. (And, here…read this.)

6.) Stop filling your mind with garbage!
It’s all very fascinating and exciting that your formerly sheltered self now has access to all this media — turn that garbage off. Now! Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. What you fill it with is what you will be thinking about. You feel baffled at why you no longer have as much interest in Bible study, prayer group, etc…God hasn’t gone anywhere. You have quit listening to Him and have instead gorged yourself on spiritual junk food ladled out by MTV, Seventeen Magazine, bad company, the radio, and more. Stop it! Just, stop. Spend your recreational time learning something, developing your skills, helping others, and above all with the Lover of your soul. Seek refreshment in your Savior. Dig into His Word. Beg Him to give you a love for it and for Him again. Don’t wait! You’re spiritual health depends on it, and you’ll learn sooner or later that refreshment in Him is the best.

7.) Getting your first kiss is not a good life goal.
One day you will hold your now beloved Disney movies in great disdain. One day you’ll wish you never meditated on the “love” songs that pull the listener’s heart strings to long for the embrace of a man and fantasize about his affections. Quit rooting for Ariel to get her kiss and her happily ever after. It doesn’t work that way. It really doesn’t. And a girl’s first kiss – as the world promotes it – is not as sweet and innocent as Drew Barrymore or any other actress makes it. There are innumerable other things you can strive after and meditate on! Choose one that honors your Savior! Romance and kisses and such will come, and then you’ll know how happy marriage can be. The wait isn’t as long as you think. Focus on lovely and pure things, pursue godliness, and time will fly.

8.) Exercise!
Do something active, and keep it up. It will get easier after the first week or so — it really will — and you’ll prevent all sorts of adulthood health problems. Maybe it’ll help you keep your head out of the garbage, too!

9.) Check your facts before ignorantly and pridefully stating that you know something.
This will save you a lot of haunting embarrassment! If someone asks you if you know what something means (such as *ahem* the image on a T-shirt you’re ignorantly wearing, for instance) – and you honestly don’t know what it means – PLEASE don’t snap back “of course I do!”. It’s okay not to know, and believe me, it’s much better to humbly reply “No…what does it mean?” than to seem to be something you’re not.

10.) Seek wise counsel!
You might not have your parents’ ear, but there are adults around you who can help. Few are bold enough to speak up, especially with the way you initially react with prideful indignation, but they are there. Surround yourself with godly women, and pepper them with your questions. Don’t be embarrassed about your lack of knowledge. It just means you have a lot of potential. Godly women who have much they can teach you do exist. Be open to them, and looking for them, and you will find them.

3 Responses to “Dear 16-year-old Me {30 Chances to Get to Know Me Series}”

  1. annagracewood

    Reblogged this on Joyful Domesticity and commented:
    I found this article on another blog and I LOVED it. Older women, let’s wake up and be the kind of woman who will say what needs to be said, in the way that it needs to be said, for Christ’s glory and for the good of our younger sisters. Can I get an AMEN? 🙂

  2. Alma Mater

    Yes! This! Your description of you 16-year-old self could have been of my 16-year-old self. I wish you could send this post back into those days, but I probably wouldn’t have listened anyway. Here’s hoping my daughters are better listeners than I would have been!

    • Jenni

      Hi Alma! I probably wouldn’t have listened, either…but I always secretly hope I would have listened to SOME of it. My experiences definitely motivate me to build relationships with and speak boldly (while tactfully and lovingly) to my teen sons and other teenagers in my life. Thankfully we can trust that God is sovereign in their lives! And wonder at the fact He chooses to use people like us! ❤

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