This is me, circa 1973, during our high school production of "Bye Bye Birdie". O. My. Gosh! I laughed so hard that my sides hurt. Besides the fact that I looked stoned, I couldn't get over how young I was. By the way, I was NOT under the influence of anything . I was always too afraid to do those kinds of things at that age. You know, visions of dying from an overdose, or the wrath of my parents. I don't know which one would have been worse.
After my initial laugh and re-posting it on Facebook, I forgot about it for awhile. Later that night, it began to haunt me. I stared at that picture and remembered that girl. It's so weird. It seems like a lifetime ago. Really, it was. When I look at her, it's like looking at a different person. Thirty-eight years have passed since I've seen her. I started to think about what I would say to her, if we could sit down and chat, in the spring of 1973. I'd like to think we would sit down and have a tender moment singing, "You Are Sixteen Going On Seventeen", like Maria and Leisl in the Sound of Music. The words to that song seem a little trite in comparison to what I would tell this particular sweet sixteen. There can be no songs and no chats. Maybe I could write her a letter and begin with the words, "Dear Sweet Sixteen."
Dear Sweet Sixteen,
Someone gave me your picture today. For some reason, it brings tears to my eyes. I get all choked up when I think about you. I have so much to tell you. A lifetime of things to tell you. You probably won't want to listen, because after all, you know it all, don't you? I am the only one that is really qualified to tell you these things. I'm the only one that can, because I know you so well. I know you through and through.
I know that today, on the set of that high school play, you're just sixteen years old. You've got your first job at the hospital. You're driving around in that '65 Mustang like there's no tomorrow. Did you know that it will be a classic car someday? I want to tell you that when you see Kenny on the side of the road, DO NOT look! That way you won't hit the car in front of you and total it out. If you do, you'll have to wait 35 years to get another one of those Pony's.
Sweet Sixteen, you're just months away from falling in love. I'm not talking about the crushes you've had so far. I'm not talking about those times you "thought" you were in love. You are about to fall head over heels, over the moon, for someone. It is going to be the best of times and the worst of times. There will be obstacles too great for that love to overcome, but I want you to know that it's for the best. It will be okay. I see it all today through 20/20 vision and you would never have wanted it to turn out any other way. Dry your tears.
Today you are innocent. Oh, if I could get you to understand the precious gift that your innocence is. Maybe I could get you to hold onto it for awhile longer. I know what you think of yourself. I know what you long for. I know your hopes and dreams. I know why you will do the things that you do. I wish I could stop you! I want you to understand how precious you are. How valuable you are. Value yourself. Treat yourself with respect.
If you could just get that, it would save you so many years of continued heartache. You are loved. You don't have to keep running here and there and everywhere, looking for love in all the wrong places. Your heart will just break over and over and over again. Your self-respect and self-esteem will erode, piece by piece until you find yourself in a deep, dark pit, surrounded by mud and mire. Oh, if I could just stop you now. Stop you from the sin.. Keep you out of the stink. Save you from the darkness.
But I can't stop you, can I? There is no stopping you.
Que Sera, Sera. Whatever Will Be, Will Be, right?
Sweet Sixteen, I wish it wouldn't have to take 30+ years for you to see why you feel the need to do the things you do. One day, understanding will bring healing. You know that I know what you've been through. I know how you're hurting even though you don't even know that you do. One day you will know. One day you will see.
You will see that you didn't have to make crucial life decisions just because that's what your friends did. You will see that you didn't have to choose a career path because that's what someone else wanted. It all stemmed from your intense need to be accepted. To be perfect for everyone else. To have no one ever be displeased or disappointed in you. You never had to do that, Sweet Sixteen. Oh, how I wish you'd known.
One day, when you are right in the middle of the deepest pit of sin that you will ever find yourself in, Someone will be standing at the top of that pit, in the light, holding out His hand to you. He will come to you in an old white Bible and start to woo you with His words, and court you with His truth, and call you to come to Him. You've never had to be perfect for Him, you see. You've never had to earn His love. He's been right there all along. He will prove it by coming closest to you while you are a sinner. A sinful woman. A sin-full woman.
On that day you will have found what you've been searching for. He is the Prince that you've been looking for all along. He will sweep you off your feet and you will never be the same again. He is the only One Who will never hurt you, leave you, reject you or forsake you. No matter what. Oh, sweet sixteen, can you hold on until He comes?
Alas, I know that you won't. I know that I can't stop you. I am you. I never listened.
I want you to know that one day that Prince will save you from yourself. You will come out of that pit and breathe the fresh air that is freedom. He will bring you a man who will love you as close to the way your Heavenly Father loves you as is humanly possible. You will be a mom, Sweet Sixteen. It will be the greatest joy of your life. Nothing compares to it. Except of course the children that YOUR children will bring into the world. You will be able to stand in the gap between the generations and leave a legacy. A different legacy. Your Prince will rebuild and restore and renew things through you and your obedience to Him. He will use you in a mighty way to serve Him.
Would I stop you, really, if I could? Come to think of it, I don't know. I would love to save you so much heartache. But in the end, I think it was all necessary. I believe it was all part of the plan. His plan. It was all a road map to your destiny. I'm not saying your choices were always smart or beneficial. But God was able to make all things work together for your good. I can't wait for you to get to that day where you meet Him, truly meet Him, for the first time. And perhaps the only way that would ever happen was for you to live the life you did all these years. It was all a path toward the arms of your perfect Prince Charming, the One you were always searching for. The One you will fall head over heels, over the moon, in love with. And that love will overcome every single obstacle you will ever face.
Carry on, Sweet Sixteen. I won't get in your way. I know the end of the story.
And they lived happily ever after.