One of my church friends is having a birthday on Saturday. She is a grown, married woman with a full-time job, adult children, and a superior sense of self and of her place and role in the world. Yet, when I asked her which number birthday this would be, Angela flashed me her wry smile and with a twinkle in her eye replied, “thirteen.” Yep. Angela was born on Leap Day.
As a mother to a soon-to-be 13-year-old teenager, I am becoming more aware of the thoughts, music, language, interests and interactions of this generation. I am also beginning to understand the insecurities, anxieties, angst, self-doubt, and in some cases, the self-loathing that plague many of today’s teens. It distresses me greatly to see firsthand how many teens contemplate self-injury or suicide. Maybe we hid it better when I was younger, or maybe life really was simpler then, but I don’t remember anyone who wanted to harm themselves or leave the planet when I was 13.
So, as I contemplate my journey through parenting a teen, I think of Angela as the personification of the idea “Dear Younger Me.” Wouldn’t it be something to have that sense of self at 13 that comes more naturally to us at 50? What would it be like to have that level of wisdom and self-acceptance, to be able to see the world and ourselves through a broader lens? There’s a great song by MercyMe called “Dear Younger Me” and the lyrics are spot on and amazing. Listen/watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-l70C3ePyIQ
We are now in the season of Lent, and I, like many of my fellow Christians, am striving to be in better relationship with Christ. Some do this through fasting or “giving up” something for the 40 days, some through taking something on, like a better behavior, some through deep personal reflection and increased prayer. But the result of the Lenten journey is this: Christ went to the cross for us, and he took with it all of those insecurities, anxieties, and angst — all of those things causing self-doubt and self-loathing. Christ took them to the cross, and MercyMe sings, we were never meant to carry this beyond the cross. The cross gives us the ability to live life looking through a broader lens, whether we are 50 or 13.
My prayer for you during Lent and beyond, and my prayer for my daughter and all the other teens out there who are struggling in some way is that you and they and I will never forget that Christ went to the cross to make us whole and to fill us with a peace that passes all understanding. And that we are never, never alone.
Grace and peace to you as your journey.
Yours in Christ,