You Are Right. You Are Different: An Open Letter to My Teen

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I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation-the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ-for this will bring much glory and praise to God. Philippians 1:9,11

I know, I know. It’s Mom. Again. Doesn’t she know that parents just don’t get it?

Parents have no idea what teens go through, right? Parents have no idea what you feel. They can’t possibly understand the pressures you have. Parents have no idea what it is like to be hurt, lonely, abandoned, confused.

Parents have no clue what it is like to be a teen!

Let me assure you, that while there are some things about your teen years I don’t understand, there is more that I actually do.

I was 16 once, too. Many, many years ago, but I still recall there was a time when I also thought my parents were clueless, and knew nothing. I do know what it is like to be a teen, and I remember just how hard it was.

I too know what it is like to try so hard to fit in. Although, I never had to endure 5 years of braces (only because Mimi and Pa couldn’t afford them), I do know what it is like to look “different” from everyone else. You can look at your little sister and see why. Know why I tell her she has beautiful hair. Just know you were not born to “fit in.” Let’s just hope it doesn’t take you 19 years to figure this out, too.

I’ll be honest. Sometimes I don’t know what you are going through. My parents were never divorced. I don’t know what it is like to have two homes, two Christmases, two sets of parents, siblings, and grandparents. Two sets of families. However, it doesn’t mean my parents always got everything right. It doesn’t mean I didn’t hear them argue late at night. It doesn’t mean they didn’t have their own problems, or that I didn’t feel any less isolated or alone. When you are 16, you think your parents are complete morons. Trust me-once you become a parent, there will be days you feel like a complete moron.

I’m sorry if my lunch box note puts added pressure on you, since you think I don’t get that either. Maybe you are right. School work just came easier to me. Truthfully, I didn’t need my parents’ pressure. I had enough of my own-the kind I put on myself. See, I mastered schoolwork in much the same way you master wrestling moves on the Xbox! I studied into the wee hours of the night, and at age 35…I still do! And I’m 35. Still trying to finish school. I just don’t want this for you. I applied to college much like you will in a few short months, and I got accepted into a few, but I couldn’t go. I had to make tough choices. Again, I don’t want this for you. So, yes. I get the pressure, but I want you to explore things, see places, do things that your parents didn’t get to do. It’s called wanting the best for our children. You’ll get it when you become a parent, too.

I assure you, son, I do know what it is like to be hurt, betrayed, lonely, abandoned, and confused. At 16, I went through things I never want to hear that you have gone through. Betrayed by those I thought could keep secrets. Hurt by many more. And, let’s not start with confusion. I haven’t met a teen yet who isn’t confused. And I hate to break it to you, but life isn’t less confusing 20 years later!

So, I’ve been 16. I’ve been pressured, broken, hurt, lonely, and confused.

But, you are right. You are different.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “Plans for good, and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

You know God. This is something my 16 year old self knew nothing of.

Do you know what that means?

That friends will betray you. Life will always be confusing. Parents may never make sense. You may never fit in.

But you…you have God.

He will never betray you, or leave you lonely. He will make a way when life gets so confusing there could not possibly be a way out. He doesn’t want you to fit in with the rest of the world. He will give you courage to make tough decisions. Strength to get through any battle. Power to conquer any obstacle-grades, braces, girls, college, whatever.

You have God.

So, yes, You are right. You are different.

You are not the 16 year old version of me. Alone in her room. Terrified because her best-laid plans were crushed by circumstances, betrayal, and tough choices. Searching for hope in everything but the only one who could make her feel less lonely, less confused, less different.

You are right. You are different. You never have to feel like me at 16.

Because, you, my son, have God. And that makes all the difference.

Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fail in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:30-31

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