diminishable me: an open letter to myself at 19

hello andrew. greetings from… yourself… in the summer of 2010. yes, i know that sounds weird. i thought about sending myself (you) back in time, but then i remembered that the terminator movies haven’t come true yet. no time travel for us. a letter will have to do. i’d tell you that it’s called a “blog” but you’d have no idea what i was talking about.

there is much that will change in the second half of your (my? our?) life so far. i won’t tell you a lot of specifics, for two reasons. one, you won’t believe me if i tell you about all the crazy stuff that will happen in the world in general, and a lot of it would probably freak you out anyway. (for example, you’ll change political parties at least once, and will vote for presidential winners and losers in each party.) two, i think the back to the future movies were probably right, and telling you too much of the future would likely mess up an awful lot. plus, the journey has made you into who i am today. (my head is spinning thinking of “you” as different from “me” already. we’re the same.)

you will clearly remember mr. clark’s words about how cool 11-12 year olds are

the reason i wanted to write you today is that i see you getting into that van, headed out for ice cream with the middle schoolers, your very first experience in church youth ministry. so sorry nobody told you that worship team practice was canceled tonight, but today marks the start of a very important pathway for you. from now on, your life will be wrapped around these amazing human beings called teens and preteens. you’ll find your niche eventually (and when you do, you will clearly remember mr. clark’s words about how cool 11-12 year olds are), but i want to give you a few heads up that shouldn’t wreck the course of history too much. the sooner you get these right, the better “our” life will be.

  1. the path of least resistance is boring. you’ll see that saying on a t-shirt someday, and it is absolutely true. the times in your life when you’ll most depend on God, and be thrilled to be alive, are the times when things are the toughest. the times you’ll go stir crazy and be bored to insult are the times when things are externally great. comfort zones are for wimps. live an adventurous life for the glory of God.
  2. life is ministry and worship, but no single ministry or experience of worship should define your life. our God is so much bigger than any church, parachurch, ministry, or job you’ll ever be involved with. keep the long view in mind. think about it now – what do want to be remembered for? it’s a marathon, not a sprint. don’t burn out, but don’t hold back either.
  3. sooner or later, everyone realizes you don’t belch sunshine and fart roses. get over it. sorry to be crude, but you just have to realize that not everyone will like you all the time. it will be the fall of many in youth ministry all around you – paid and volunteer – so don’t fall into a messiah complex. rely on the Holy Spirit, not the emotional high you get from feeling needed.
  4. don’t come untethered from the bedrock of scripture. ever. you will sojourn in some very diverse churches, ministries, and schools of thought as to how the Christian life should be lived out. please do not mistake experience for truth. if it doesn’t line up with the written Word of God, run as fast as you can.
  5. a guy you’ll listen to regularly will say it best: live like no one else, so that later you can live like no one else.

    stay out of debt. if i remember right, all you should have so far is like $80 on a gas card. pay it off quickly, and never go into debt for anything again, except a house. don’t get a credit card just to “build credit.” pay cash. save. give. a guy you’ll listen to regularly will say it best: live like no one else, so that later you can live like no one else.
  6. be who you are. God has created you so amazingly special! the gifts and creativity He’s given you will bless and enrich the lives of countless kids, families, and others. it’s when you try to live up to the expectations of others that don’t mesh with who He created you to be that you’ll feel the most frustrated and alone.
  7. that said, this is not about you. it isn’t in 1992, and it won’t be in 2010. your life will be the most fulfilling when you focus on loving God and serving students. that will take on a lot of different faces over the years, so just buckle up and enjoy the ride.
  • here’s a freebie: it is no accident that your mother, her mother, and her mother before that are all flaming irish redheads. you will want to remember someday that you can’t go wrong with an irish girl.

blessings, my friend/self. live well. i’ll see you near the close of the next 19 years. i just got a letter from 57-year-old “us” that blows my mind. too much for you right now, though.

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About andrew burden

andrew blogs about being a volunteer youth leader, teacher, video editor, husband, friend, child of God
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