What I Know Now: A Letter To My Younger Self
Bonnie Gray is the soulful author of Whispers of Rest and Finding Spiritual Whitespace. An inspirational speaker and retreat leader, she has touched thousands of lives through storytelling, visual arts, nature, prayer and meditation. Bonnie’s writing is featured on Relevant Magazine, DaySpring (in)courage, and Christianity Today. She lives in California with her husband and their two sons. Visit Bonnie at www.thebonniegray.com and connect with her @thebonniegray on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
- 2012 Sep 05
"You are not forgotten. Don't run from your need. Feel your need and dare to follow your dreams."
This is a school picture of me, taken in third grade.
You see my Mork from Ork suspenders? I wore those rainbow straps, even when my pants pulled up too tight and those chicklet-sized suspender clips were just barely hanging on.
I loved watching Mork and Mindy. Nanu, nanu... And check out that neckline. I made sure my collar opened up wide, so that my mirrored Hello Kitty necklace dangled front and center. My hubby Eric cracks up everytime I show him this picture. But, it doesn't surprise him. Yeah, I'm geeky.
I loved school even more than TV, so you can imagine -- all my teachers loved me and always made me feel special. I was the chatterbox among my school friends, so I can't say I was shy. I made good friends, played hot lava tag at recess and hold many wonderful, warm memories of elementary school life.
But, life back at home was a very different story. Third grade was very significant for me. Not only because the multiplication tables eluded me, while Pippy Longstocking won my heart. But, it was a year of enduring many dark struggles, as a single parent child, from a divorced family.
My letter today is to her -- my younger self -- when I was the only Chinese-American girl who sat in my California third grade class.
You are bubbly by nature, curious and tomboy all rolled up into one. You play kickball with the boys, but deep inside, you wish you had a pair of patent leather black party shoes too. You always did your best and never stopped caring, thinking and doing until all was taken care of. You wear a smile well and laughter is your default weather. Your eyes sparkle with sunshine because the dreams in your heart keep you content and very low maintenance.
But, I see deep where no one can see.
I see your need.
I know that your father left two years ago suddenly. Without warning, you woke up to find him packing to leave. Your mother is not a safe person. And there is no one left to confide in. You are the girl who can't stop talking in class -- who the teacher forced into exile in Siberia, scooting your desk to the class corner (still to no avail - no one can keep Bonnie from talking!). But, here you are, with no one to hold your broken heart or hear your thousandth question.
You don't think anyone hears you when you cry at night, when you stare up into the ceiling and watch the shadows dance off headlights from street traffic streaming outside your bedroom window.
Last year, you won second place in the district spelling bee. But, your momma met you with a sigh in her shoulders, her head shaking in disappointment, as you met her eyes of apathy after the awards ceremony. Second place became last place and your sweet young heart fell crushed with regret.
Next year you will you write your first poem. It will be selected to be published in the school newspaper, which you will carefully fold, to carry home and put away quietly in your desk.
You've been brought up to believe that nothing good comes easy. Only what's hard and bitter is served to you as love.
You don't know it yet, Bonnie. But, none of your tears can erode God's love for you.
None of your loneliness can be hidden away, like your poem -- in the drawer of forgotten. None of the coldness you wrap around for comfort is going to freeze the gifts God's given you.
I don't have an answer to why for you. But, I can tell you -- with undeniable certainty --- that you are not forgotten. Every word you whisper on paper is carving out a hungry heart that will grow wide and deep for Jesus to speak into. You will not stop writing, even though no one seems to care. You will not stop loving, because your need will keep you vulnerable, longing and tender.
Whatever you do, you must remember this. Nothing and nobody can change who God has made you.
No mistake, no guilt, no abuse, no lies, no missed opportunities, no shameful words.
You will be afraid. Very afraid. But, even this cannot destroy you. Even if you don't believe it. It won't matter. God's purpose for you cannot be erased.
So, these are my words to you: it's worth it.
Be broken. Don't run from it. Feel your need and dare to follow your dreams.
And when you feel you've been too broken and cannot stand the pain of being alone one breath longer -- break your silence.
Tell someone. Anyone. Everyone. Be that annoying needy someone -- until someone who can recognize the voice of Christ in your pain answers. You must not hide, even at the risk of more hurt. Which you surely will be. Because you want to live fully. And you will.
When you give yourself permission to need -- that place of empty, that place of wanting -- that ache of unrequited desire will lead you to fulfill the God-sized dreams that are imprinted in you before you were even named.
Before the beginning of time, you were designed to need. The more you lean into your need, the more you will be able to trust your dreams and pursue them with passion and fervor. No matter what the cost. No matter how long it takes.
Your need entwines you to Christ.
Brokenness is beauty to Him.
You are not forgotten.
No matter what comes.
No matter how invisible.
You are not forgotten.
With all my love and tenderness for you,
"It will no longer be said to you, "Forsaken," Nor to your land will it any longer be said, "Desolate"; But you will be called, "My delight is in her," ...For the LORD delights in you" ~ My Abba Father, Is.62:4
What would you say to your younger self -- based on what you know now?
At what point in life would you wish to speak to her-- and what would you say?
Pull up a chair and stay a little longer today. Click to comment. Let's swap some stories.
(Psst... To read stories of readers who have submitted their own letters to their younger selves, click here and scroll to the end of the post on Bonnie's blog: FaithBarista.com.
Bonnie Gray is an inspiring Christian writer and blogger, offering encouragement to keep faith fresh in the daily grind. Her writing springs from the belief that the beauty of faith often takes place when life goes off script. Bonnie is the Founder of FaithBarista.com and featured writer for Hallmark subsidiary DaySpring's (in)Courage. Bonnie is currently working on her debut book, to be published by Revell Books. Bonnie is a native Californian living in the heart of Silicon Valley with her best friend Hubby, wrangling their two heaven-sent boys on the homestead.
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