Advice for my Middle School Daughter
Dear Middle School Daughter of Mine,
This weekend, you became a teenager. I have thoughts of is this possible?!! and where did the time go?!!! But the truth is that 13 seems to fit you just right. It helps that you surpassed me in height this year. You have also faced some trials that have helped you to grow into yourself.
Your teenage years lie before you, ready to be discovered, navigated, explored, urging you to learn, to grow, to have fun. As you dip your toes into these new waters, it seems appropriate that I offer you some advice. After all, I have already passed through my teen years and so I offer you a compass, a map and a telescope to aid you on your journey.
Your Compass~ Fix your eyes on Jesus
You will be tempted to look any and everywhere else for your True North, but I want you to know that Jesus is the only Way through these sometimes turbulent, often unexpected discoveries in your teenage years. When your eyes are fixed on him, you will be able to face the difficulties that will come and you will be able to give him glory in the good and the bad.
This might sound simplistic, but you have already seen the importance of fixing your eyes on Jesus. This year hasn’t exactly been the easiest. You have lost friendships and your heart has been broken. But in some ways, this is God’s grace in your life, because you are learning lessons that most people don’t learn until much later in life.
Friends will fail you. Your siblings will not always like you. Your parents will not always get it right. Life will not be fair. If you are looking to any of these things to determine your direction, you will drift off course. But when you keep your eyes on Jesus, you will be able to weather these storms, understanding that you are not drowning and you will make it through.
Your friends will fail you and they will forsake you, but Jesus never will.
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5
Cling to this truth. But don’t overlook the first verse in Hebrews 13. It says this…
“Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.” – Hebrews 13:1
Even when your friends fail you, when they reject you, when they don’t understand you, you must keep loving them! You don’t get to treat them poorly, because they have hurt you. Trust me when I say that I know this is hard. The old adage is true- hurting people hurt people. I know that you feel like you have been shot by a cannon ball, knocked over, unable to breathe. I know you never want to feel that way again, so you will treat others badly before they can hurt you.
I get this. But THIS is why it is so imperative to fix your eyes on Jesus- the one who endured unspeakable suffering to save you. The one who was willing to endure the ridicule, the false accusations, the beatings, the mocking, the slander, the complete injustice, so that you might have life eternal. As followers of Christ, we are asked to share in his sufferings, letting go of our own demands. There is great joy set before you, dear girl! A treasure box waiting to be opened! Don’t miss out on the blessings God has for you, because of a need to make everyone treat you the way you feel you deserve to be treated.
Your Map ~ The Word of God
You are a voracious reader. Ever since you were two and you insisted on sleeping with books in your bed, you have been a book lover. I love this about you. I love the adventures that you take via books and the way you get lost in a good story. Sometimes you will learn powerful lessons from the books that you read. But the ONLY book that should determine your life choices is the Bible.
It is God’s love letter to you, his plan to redeem humanity and restore us to a right relationship with him.
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 1:3-8
Everything you need for life can be found in the pages of this book. But don’t ever think that you know everything in it. This is one of the dangers of being young and impetuous- and having grown up in the church. It is pride that makes you believe you have it all figured out. Keep reading. Keep exploring. There are intricacies to this map that you won’t even see after the first 100 times of reading it. So keep going.
It is my deepest prayer for you, that you would know Jesus and that you would love His Word. It’s a game changer. And for those who scoff at you and say that it is archaic and irrelevant- well, we know better don’t we? “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
Don’t rely on the wisdom of this world, even the things that sound good. Allow your books and your reading to encourage a deeper passion for God’s word, a desire that cannot be quenched.
Your Telescope~ Grace
This is a lesson that I have only learned recently, so my prayer for you is that you would learn this now. The way we look at the world needs to be through the eyes of grace. God has lavished his love on us and we don’t deserve it. Not even a little. Understanding that all of our efforts, our strivings, our works and our service are just filthy rags, puts everything into perspective.
We are not better than anyone else. We all deserve death, but God in his mercy gave us His Son instead, offering us new life in Him. Because Jesus sacrificed his life in our place, taking the penalty for our sin on Himself, dying in our place, rising to new life and offering that life to us, we get to live! What an amazing gift!
But when we think that we deserved the gift of grace or that we are somehow better than others because of this gift, we are dead wrong. Believing these lies will cause us to look down our noses at other people. It will cause us to judge others, to hold them to a standard we have no right holding them to, to place expectations on others. This is ungrace. It is a trap that Christians so easily fall into.
Grab hold of grace, sweet girl. Look at others through its lens. Don’t think of yourself as better than others. Celebrate their successes. Mourn with their losses. Do not judge. Instead, point them to Jesus. Show kindness and mercy and love. Be patient with those who mistreat you. They are on a different journey. Pray for them. Ask forgiveness when you fail others.
But understand this- true lovers of Christ will seek to love you in the same way. They will offer grace to you, because they understand the depths from which they have been saved. Do not allow the judgmental, critical, harsh, demeaning voices to define you. While there might be some truth in what they say (and you can and should learn from these things!), it is only the grace-filled voices in your life that you should truly listen to and take to heart. These are the people who genuinely love you and desire what is best for you. They are the ones who take the time to know you rather than making hasty judgments.
I know the judgmental voices are louder and the ones that ring in your head. But they are wrong, Lu. You are not defined by your mistakes and your failures. You are not defined by your emotional outbursts or poor choices. You are defined by Christ’s power at work in you, changing you from the inside out.
All of the treasures of this world are worth nothing compared to the unshakable treasure that awaits you through Jesus Christ. May you pursue Him with all of your heart.
Happy 13th, sweet girl!
I love you,