Dear Me in 2004,
I know what happened to you a month before this picture was taken. I know you haven’t told anybody about it. I know you feel like a fraud because, in a couple of weeks, you’re going to go to camp and you’re going to teach teen girls how valuable they are while you feel like an object because of the things your boyfriend has said and done to you.
You are no object. And you are no fraud.
The voice that says those things about you isn’t trustworthy.
I know what you’re thinking: But I’ve really screwed up this time. Like, for real.
Yeah, you’re right. You’ve made some mistakes in this relationship and otherwise. Choosing to date him to avoid hurting his feelings was certainly a mistake, for instance. But you are not your mistakes. And there’s no reason you can’t learn from them and move on.
The truth in this situation is that you said no, and he should have kept his hands off you. Full stop. The agony and darkness you’re carrying around as some sort of penance for what he did is wholly unnecessary.
I know what your boyfriend is telling you, too. Sure, he may be a worship leader. He may lead mission trips and go to divinity school and be asked to preach inspirational messages. But he’s telling you lies, placing responsibility for his sin and his immaturity entirely on your shoulders. He’s acting in a way that proves himself incapable of respecting you or your body. And, unfortunately, what you’ve seen from him right now is only the beginning.
So hear me when I say his words need carry no weight. The things he says about you are in direct contradiction to the way Jesus describes you. That boyfriend is not a trustworthy source, and he’s lost the right to speak into your life because of the ways he’s treated you. He is a very minor, very fleeting character in the vast story of your life.
I know you’re afraid that if you leave that boy there will be nobody else. But I want to remind you this is also a lie. There are already so many good, wonderful people in your life. Lean into them instead. They’re the ones worth listening to. When they tell you that you’re worth truly knowing, worth protecting, worth respecting? You can believe them. Because Jesus would say the same of you, and their actions back up their words.
Be free to follow hard after your Savior and to love your campers well. Your heart may feel sick, but you know the Healer. You aren’t a fake for choosing to run to Jesus instead of cutting Him out of your life in shame.
Your campers this summer will love you—and it won’t be because they’re convinced you’ve got the whole purity culture thing down. They’re going to see you ugly cry in the middle of chapel. They’re going to wrap their arms around you and celebrate victories with you. They’re going to be the first ones with whom you share your whole hard story.
These will be the days you look back on and remember when you need to shore yourself up for battle because it’s this summer where you’ll take a chance on being vulnerable and you will be loved…not in spite of what you share, but because you’ve shared your true self.
I wish I could tell you the next fourteen years are going to be nothing but joy and confetti, but I’m pretty sure you’d call me out on that fast. So instead I’ll tell you this: you’re still alive. Living, breathing, laughing, crying, beautifully, painfully, wonderfully alive.
There is much brokenness in the future, but there is also so much healing. In the middle of it all, in the milestones and in the mundane, you’ll catch some glimpse of the utter truth of God’s promises and it’s going to stick.
When God says you’re made in His image and you are good, you will believe Him. When He says you’re free, you will finally believe Him. When He says you’re strong and courageous because He is with you, you will…try really hard to believe Him. And sometimes you’ll succeed!
You are no object. You are no fraud. You are a very real, very loved woman of God, with whom He joyfully abides.
Live in freedom. Love always.
Me in 2018