Dear 18 year old me,
You’ll be graduating High School in a couple weeks. I don’t want to give too much away, but since you’re a nominally Jewish kid heading to Purdue to study Computer Science and I’m a Lutheran Pastor, I think I can say things won’t always work out the way you plan.
This isn’t an “keep chasing your dreams until you catch them” letter. Honestly, I don’t know how it all ends yet. I still haven’t heard from 50 year old us. I’m not sure whether that’s an ominous sign or if that guy’s just a huge procrastinator.
I won’t give you stupid yearbook cliché’s. I won’t tell you that if I could go back in time, I’d intentionally make every single mistake all over again because they lead me to this moment. There will be dark days full of pain as you haven’t felt yet. But there will also be amazing days full of more joy and happiness than you’ve ever known or dared even to imagine.
I know you want a roadmap of which mistakes to avoid, which streets not to walk down, and a few winning lottery numbers. Sorry. I wasn’t smart enough to write down the powerball back then, but hopefully 50 year old us has it covered and I’ll hear from him soon.
I’m not going to tell you about our mistakes either. Honestly, there’s something more important you need to know. It’s something you’ve wondered about a lot. There really is a God. He’s very real. I know His book hasn’t yielded answers for you the way you expected, but when you finally wander into a Lutheran Church, you’ll meet a guy who’ll teach you what it means.
God didn’t use His book to lay out every mistake you’ll ever make. There’s no chapter and verse that gives the answers to every important choice and directions for every fork in the road. That might seem like an oversight, or maybe just a obnoxious move, but He uses His word to tell you something even more important – something that gives answer to the unknowns.
The point of the whole bible is that God became man for us. He was called Jesus. This Jesus didn’t give out winning lotto tickets then either. Instead, He acted on a plan that was in place from before there was such a thing as time. Before the foundation of the world He knew you (because He’s God and He knows everything) and He loved you. He saw the good days and He saw the bad days. He also saw the mistakes and the things you did on purpose that wrought havoc on everyone and everything around you. So He saved us from ourself.
This Jesus, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, died for us on a cross. He died to bear the punishment we deserved for all of it. Then He rose from the dead. He’s alive, and He makes you a part of that life through something called baptism. It is finished. You’re saved. Even from death.
The reason God doesn’t lay out the map to every fork in the road is because the book isn’t about how to not mess up. It’s about how you’re forgiven when you do. There is nothing you can ever do, no mistake you can ever make that will make God stop loving you. There is nothing you can do to make Him abandon you.
So as you head out, I don’t need write you warnings. You don’t need to know because there isn’t a choice you can make that will undo this truth. Jesus died for you to save you. He will take care of you in the meanwhile too. If He loved you enough to die for you, do you really think He’ll forget about you afterwards? Even when it feels like you’re freefalling and all you can see is the ground coming up fast, He will be with you. He will be working. However this ends, I know where we end up. We’ll rise with our God. Nothing can change that.
However things work out, whatever you’re facing, it will be ok.