Last night I was reflecting on the undeniable reality that my daughter turns 12 years old today. After getting over what that means about how old I’m getting, I started to think about how with each passing birthday, we either get further away or closer to the person God made us to be. As we get older, more things in the world pull us and tempt us. Although with each passing year we become more able to take care of ourselves physically and emotionally, we become more vulnerable spiritually, more susceptible to buying into the notion that we must earn the right to be loved and valued. Maybe this is what Jesus was getting at when he said: “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:17) As I consider this little girl God has entrusted to my care, I am acutely aware that with every birthday, she is more capable of taking care of herself and yet more vulnerable, because of the messages she will receive from this world, to becoming convinced that who she is depends upon what she can accomplish and how she looks. And so, I wrote her this letter to remind her of the truth about who she is in the hope that she would get it today, but even more so that she can remind herself whenever she needs to. It turns out that this letter was as much to me as it was to her.
June 27, 2012
Dear my sweet love, Jamie,
Tomorrow you turn 12 and this year I decided to write you this letter. I love you so much, more than you could ever possibly know or understand. I love who you are and who you’re becoming. You are so important to me and I am so proud of you. You have a curious, loving, and lively spirit. You are beautiful. I love that you love to read, that you know every line ever spoken on Friends, and that the truth is central to you and your relationships with others. Every time you smile or laugh, my heart leaps with love for you and every time I see you go, my heart leaps for the experiences you might have without me. You are such a compassionate friend and a wise soul. You have a creative spirit that allows you to write, and act, and dream.
I want you to remember something: God made you this way and he loves you even more than I ever could. You are his beloved. You are precious in his eyes and he knew and loved you before I ever did. I want you to remember as you grow up that God holds you close through every moment of your life. He thinks about you and knows everything about you, all that is on the inside, and all that is on the outside. He loves the way you laugh, the way you love your friends. He loves the way you love your brothers. He loves that you are so compassionate and empathetic to everyone you know. He loves that you forgive, even when it would not make sense to anyone else that you would. He made you just this way. And when you are all these things, you are fulfilling who he made you to be.
I have told you this before, but I really believe it: God has a special plan for you and he will use you in ways you can’t even fathom. He is preparing you for this plan. He will work everything you experience in your life for your good because you love him. And no experience, no person, no choice you ever make can separate you from his love. As you grow up, you will notice that choices get harder and temptations get stronger. We have talked about how hard it is to follow Jesus in our world because everything we see and hear wants to pull us away from him. When this happens, cling to love and to what is good. If you do this, you will always find your way back to who you are. Jesus will strengthen you when you feel too weak; he will whisper to you the way to go when you feel lost; he will encourage you when you feel sad. Even when you are alone or scared, he is there and you are never beyond his reach. Even when you make poor decisions or the biggest mistakes, he will never withdraw his love or leave you.
You can always talk to me about anything in your heart, any feelings you have, any doubts or fears. You can tell me when you’re angry and when you’re struggling. You can ask me any question. You can always tell me about your smallest or biggest triumphs and disappointments. I will walk with you through them all.
I pray for you every single day and always will. My prayer is that you will flourish in your love for God and for others. I pray that you will remain rooted in Christ and his love for you. I pray that you will feel his presence and love every moment and it will bring you immeasurable joy, so much that you will want to dance! I pray that you will remember God’s grace and mercy when you are hard on yourself or make a mistake. I pray that you will not worry or be anxious, but that you will pray and ask God for help and for peace. I pray that you will remember to thank God for the way he has blessed you and given you good things. I pray that you will stand firm when tested and be still when you need to. I pray that you will give your money, your time, and your gifts to the poor. Most of all, I pray that you will feel the freedom that Jesus has given you through what he did on the cross and that nothing will hold you back from the wonderful, amazing plans he has for your life!
My sweet love, I love you.