A Birthday Letter to Myself

Two weeks after my birthday, in 2016, I wrote yourself a letter. I don’t remember exactly what had happened, but I believe I had been passed over for a job. I still have that letter and I read it occasionally, most often around my birthday. It’s a reminder to keep going, to keep fighting. The truth is, I’m not sure I know how to fight, or what I’m fighting for. It’s easy to look at my peers and want to give up.
But that’s the old me! The old me had no fight, and I believe that letter, that was an attempt to become a fighter. I’m not there and most of the time I don’t even know where there is. I do know it’s not here and I need to keep going. But does this feeling ever go away? This longing for more, for better, for deeper, this longing for life? I can’t imagine that it does. And besides, if there is one more hurting young adult, one more person who wants to end their life, then there is still more worth fighting for.

If nothing else has happened in the last two years I’ve moved from wanting to grow for myself to wanting to grow so I have a higher capacity to help those who are hurting. Why not use my mistakes to help someone else grow. Why not make one more person feel like they are not alone anymore? And why can’t my foolish choices help someone else realize that they aren’t the only one who has acted like a fool?
I’ve come to accept that life is a fight. It seems like everything around me is pointing to this. I’ve been studying Gideon’s call into battle in Judges six, while at the same time studying Psalm 23. Psalm 23 is very much a psalm of rest, but it contains within it the reminder that the LORD meets us in the battle! “He prepares a table in the presence of my enemies.” It is in the battle that He chooses to anoint us and to fill our cups.

So here, as always, I have two choices: (1) Give up and walk away, leaving behind all the hard work I’ve put in over the last two years, admit I’m all the things I’ve thought I was and quit. Or (2) Fight one more day. Choose to do one thing that would move me closer to my desired endpoint.

What is my desired endpoint? Most days I do not know. My birthday seems to have become a day of self-reflection, of looking at my life and wondering what would, or what could have been. Today I want to wonder what might be, and what could be.

When I’m on my death bed I want to know that I loved my family well. I want my daughter to know she was loved with everything I had in me. I want my wife to know I could have done nothing without her and that she is my everything. I want to know as I look back, that people heard there was an option to change when they listened to my life’s message. I want to know that I played my part and played it with everything I had. I want to know that I chose to fight on my bad days, not with those I loved, but for those I loved. As I lay dying I want to know that I fought for hope and that I inspired others to join the fight beside me. I want to know that when I met others who had walked the same path that I had walked, that they knew there was going to be an exit somewhere, but not to fear a less traveled path. I want my life to be a soft melody that is calming to the din of broken lives and that my story had shown as a light in the darkness.

Before writing this I’d never thought these words before. They seem a tall order, too much for me. The truth is they are not too much. These are goals and milestones I can reach for, a life I can pursue. I can look back on where I’ve been and all the lessons learned and see the changes that started within! Take courage, my soul. There is a work that started within and isn’t done yet. Today will become tomorrow as every day before it has been. Today’s choice must still be made. Will you take one step in the right direction, will you choose to grow, will you choose to learn, will you choose to fight? Every small step was a choice, and when you can’t walk anymore you’ll finally look back and see where you’ve been. But remember today’s step effects where you end.

Now listen to me, don’t fret the size of your step. It’s better to take a small step than to fall backward, but your fear of moving back shouldn’t be greater than your fear of standing still. Press on, no matter what, walk through the mud, step in the hole, just keep moving. If you fall get up, if you trip, keep on. Your scars will tell all that you made your attempt at what very few would. There is no destination, there is no, “we’re here”, there is no arriving. Each person takes the step they need to that day, at least that’s the choice.

Today you’ve been honest and that’s a good step. You’ve got more to go before you can rest, so keep on walking and take one more step.
Your 37-year-old self.


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