Faith General Identity

Letters to Younger Me- Age 16

MW Editor’s Note:  From time to time, we post a series of letters that older you might have written to younger you. Letters that help bring perspective and hope for the future. Perhaps some of these letters resonate with you. Perhaps, some of these letters might help you work through some growing-up experiences that have shaped the man you are becoming or should become. 

Dear Younger Me.

Where is time going?  You can’t be 16 already! You’ve grown up so much!  Taller than mom and coming close to dad in height. That stash is getting thicker. Have you thought of shaving? 

You took summer driving school and you are dead-set on getting your first car! It’s all you can think about. More than girls and definitely more than school. Between mowing yards and washing dishes at the university cafeteria, you’ve saved most of the money you need for a car, but are still short. It’s driving you crazy!  Eventually, your parents co-signed a small car loan. $37 a month and you were bound and determined to pay it off as soon as possible!

Car Freedom!

Okay, I’ll be honest, your hatchback is ugly, but hey, it’s wheels. Dad had to teach you how to drive a manual and it was quite funny watching you try stopping on a hill and getting it going again!  That car would take you further from home than ever. In fact, you and your cousin, Tim, drove over 400 miles round trip to canoe the Illinois River in Northeastern Oklahoma. Think of it, two sixteen-year-olds on an overnight canoe trip with no GPS, no cellphones.  To be honest, being a dad myself, I couldn’t imagine letting my son go on a trip like that without any of that technology. 

More Confidence than you Realize

Do you know what it means that your folks let you go on such a trip?  They believe in you. They have a level of trust in you to let you go that far away on your own, with your cousin. I know you think otherwise, but it’s a sign they love you. Despite all your struggles in growing up, you are making strides, man. Maturity is happening.

Tragedy Hits

Then, just as you returned from that river adventure, you get the worst news ever! The shock came when mom woke you up to the news your good friend Kevin (remember your 9th-grade campaign?), was killed in a car-train wreck. Kevin was driving the family station wagon, with 7 other kids and didn’t see the train. Six were killed instantly; two survived. They were going swimming on a Sunday afternoon. You literally cried for days. 

Caskets Everywhere

I recall when you asked dad to drive you to the funeral home. It was over 80 miles away. The entire trip was in silence. As you walked into that funeral home there were caskets everywhere. You entered the room where Kevin’s body lie. Your heart was crushed. “That should have been me.” you convinced yourself. The very weekend you and your cousin Tim were having a river adventure, Kevin and his friends were killed. Kevin was the one who lived for Jesus. Why did this happen? So many questions and so few answers.

Funeral for Six

Sixteen year olds aren’t supposed to die. Nor for that matter, fourteen and twelve and ten and eight-year-olds. Yet, there you were in a high school gym converted into a funeral service. You and your friend Ronnie drove up. I recall you telling me Ronnie had you stop along the highway so he could have a smoke. Guess he found his vice to handle the stress. 

It Hit You

As they talked about Kevin and his life, they had his Bible. It was all marked up, underlined, noted in. “My favorite verse”. They told the story of how as a seventh-grader, Kevin would get up super early to have a time in the Word. That’s when it finally hit you. “No wonder Kevin’s walk with Jesus was so obvious and mine wasn’t.”  He spent time with Jesus in the Word. The proverbial lightbulb went on and you realized the missing part of your life. It was as if Jesus was quietly standing next to you at that funeral.  “I want to spend time with you.” His Spirit whispered to you. 

From that Day Forward

Life has not been the same since. Kevin’s story sent you into a trajectory that has directly influenced the man I’ve become. You not only have come to love the Word, but you long to spend time with Jesus. He is increasingly becoming your life!

I Wish it Weren’t So

However, there is one dark cloud that was looming on the horizon. You launched into your new school year with more optimism than ever in your life. Your renewed faith and your hope seemed to carry you as school started. But, then, the clouds began to gather. Darkness crept in and before long, you were spiraling down at a rate so fast…

But, more about that next time; when you turn 17.

Until then,

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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