Updated: Feb 8, 2019
I recently pulled out my diary from my high school days. Goodness. While I wasn’t disciplined to write in it every day, it is evident I was definitely on a teenaged emotional rollercoaster. There were neatly written entries where I wrote pages of being noticed by a super-cute guy, tear-stained entries when a friend hurt my feelings, and sloppy penmanship where I must have been in a hurry to document every detail of an event. Ah, the secrets kept by my dear diary.
Surprisingly, reading my words instantly took me back in time and, for a moment, I was that teenaged girl. I sigh and shake my head, reminding myself those days are long gone and I know how most of the story unfolds. However, I am keenly aware that, if I allow, those old hurts will hurt me again. So, I closed the diary and thought about what I would say to the teenaged me.
Dear Teen Me,
Trust me when I tell you, time has a way of giving you perspective. You will look back on these days and realize how much energy and emotion were wasted on something that really wasn’t deserving of your tears. Yet, in Romans 8:28, God says He will work all things out for your good, and He bottles all of your tears (Psalms 56:8).
So, about some of those memories…
How in the world did I end up as student government recording secretary, taking a required leadership class? Oh, yeah. In my desire to be popular, I allowed someone to convince me to run for the position. Wow. Not what I expected. As I sit in the classroom, all I can think about is how I’m not as smart as my classmates. They like to debate their points and have strong opinions on all sorts of issues. I don’t like to debate, and I am certainly not going to voice my opinion on something I don’t have a clue about. Did I mention they are really good at debating?
Perspective: Yep. That was a tough year, but you stuck it out. You didn’t quit or transfer out of the class. It was your first real trial of endurance. While you were quiet, you listened carefully and learned to observe what wasn’t being said. You became a peacemaker. You were introduced to Robert’s Rules of Order. You learned how to take really good notes and prepare official minutes. Those skills will serve you well in your future endeavors.
My life is over. I didn’t make the final cut for cheerleader. All I have ever wanted to do was be a cheerleader. I am cheerful, but obviously just not good enough to be a real cheerleader. I just knew if I made the team, I would finally be popular. Everybody knows who the cheerleaders are and their uniforms are so cute. I would have purpose and be somebody.
Perspective: Yes, what a huge disappointment. Seriously, your life isn’t over. While you didn’t make the cheer team, you did make the yearbook staff. In your lamenting, did you forget that was what you really, really wanted to do since junior high school? Sure, the yearbook staff doesn’t have cute uniforms, but you get to document the year’s happenings in pictures and words. You are writing a history for your fellow students, capturing moments and memories.
You also need to realize that you are a cheerleader, maybe not for sporting events, but for your friends and classmates. Use your perky personality for their benefit, not just yours. Encourage others when they are discouraged. Bear their burdens. Share their joy. When a new kid comes in class, get out of your comfort zone and introduce yourself; make them feel welcome and included. It will serve a good purpose and it will give you purpose.
Why can’t I be popular? I have a lot of friends who are popular. I thought if I had popular friends, I would be popular, too.
Perspective. First of all, you’re using the word popular way too often. Secondly, you’ve got it wrong about popularity. While you want to be well-known, part of the “in” crowd, and perhaps even the center of attention, what you are desperately longing for is love and acceptance. And, you are loved and accepted. Just stop and look around. You’ve got countless friends from over the years.
Twenty-some years from now, at a class reunion picnic, you’ll have a conversation with a classmate you don’t remember. You’ll finally confess to her that you can’t place her and she’ll say to you: “You probably don’t remember me because I didn’t beat you up. You weren’t like those jocks and popular kids. You were always nice to me.” During that same weekend, you’ll spend hours talking with one of your “popular” friends, only to learn that she cried herself to sleep every night…because she desperately wanted to be loved for who she was, not what she was: popular.
Dear Teen Me,
For every entry in your well-worn diary, there is a take-away perspective. Just know that while your feelings are very real, feelings are not reliable and they make you do stupid things. Instead:
Learn to evaluate every situation with God’s truth.
Discern what lesson He is teaching you.
Listen to God’s truth, not the whispers of the evil one’s lies.
Be strong and courageous.
Choose your friends wisely.
Friends will hurt you. Be a faithful friend.
Don’t date someone who doesn’t share your faith.
You will make mistakes; don’t let the fear of making a mistake keep you from trying.
Choose to see the good in all people.
Choose to view your cup as half-full.
Don’t compare yourself to others.
Be a peacemaker.
Be a cheerleader.
And always remember, Jesus loves you.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
~ 1 Corinthians 13:13