After a few long, hard months of steep learning curves I told someone that I was tired of only learning stuff in hindsight. It’s exhausting. So they asked me to look 6 months ahead and consider the things I might want to have learnt when I look back. Being me, I thought I’d take it a bit further. I’ve seen lots of people write cute little “letters to a 16 year old me”, sharing lessons learnt with their adolescent-self. But I can’t really go back to being 16, I can’t re-do what I have and haven’t done over the years and change anything. That time is spent. I can however look forward to old age and think about the story I want to live out over the next half a century and muse over the things I’d like to have learnt in reverse.
So here goes my little letter…
Dear 70 year old me,
I expect you’re fairly wrinkly. I expect you probably didn’t listen to your mum and spent a little too much time in the sun and now you’re looking aged. I hope it was worth it. I hope you bought one of those miracle anti-wrinkle creams and you’re either reaping the benefits or suing them for false advertising.
I’m sitting here, wondering who you are, what you’re like and what you’ve done with yourself over the last forty-five years. I’m hoping that you’ve collected fond memories and lived adventurous stories; I hope that you’re embarrassed by some of the stupid things you’ve done, surprised by what you dared to do and impressed with your ability to stretch yourself and push your own boundaries. I hope that you’ve dared greatly in life, haven’t stopped dreaming big and kept on believing that pretty much anything is possible if you work hard. I hope that you haven’t been held back by what others do, say or think and that you’ve repeatedly stormed through every barrier you see in front of you. I hope you’re still in the arena – figuring it out as you go and making the most of any and every opportunity to live life fully.
I hope that you’ve only said no to things out of wisdom and never fear. I hope that you’ve lived out of a place of freedom, staring the things that scared you right in the face and pressing on regardless. I’m sure you’ve learnt over and over that life is tough and that you get things wrong, but I hope it hasn’t stopped you. I hope you’ve settled in your mind that making mistakes and having the courage to stand up and face the music every time is one of the greatest ways to keep yourself growing. I hope others have cheered you on along the way and I hope that you’ve done the same for them.
I hope that you’ve loved people well. I hope that you’ve continually chosen kindness over judgement. I hope that you’re committed to thinking the best of others, have kept your life open to all sorts of people and have never stopped listening to- and learning from- views that are different to your own. I hope that you’ve enjoyed and appreciated the stories of others as much as you’ve loved living your own. I hope that you celebrate and champion your friends and do your best to raise others up. I hope that you’ve let others shape you and knock off some more of those rugged edges. I hope that you have friends who tell you the truth, who love you enough to point out your blind spots and correct you when you’re wrong. I hope you let them do so and love them for it.
I hope that you’ve been dependable, honest and vulnerable, and spent yourself on behalf of the people you love. I hope that you’ve kept the right people close by and let go of those who were only supposed to be around for a season. I hope you’ve spent a lot of money wining, dining and adventuring with friends – because most great conversations happen around great food. I hope that you still laugh until it hurts, make fun of yourself (and others) and out-wit all of your opponents in any sparring match. I hope you don’t take yourself too seriously and still dance and sing like no one’s watching when you’re baking.
I hope that you still have great hope and vision for how things could be. I hope that your heart hasn’t been dismayed by life’s disappointments and trials and that the brokenness you’ve seen and experienced has made you more determined to pursue justice and not become cynical. I hope that you notice the light more than you see the darkness. I hope that you’ve forgiven others freely and not held on to any of your war wounds. I hope that you’re grateful for what you have been given and keep choosing joy when life gets tough.
I hope you’ve shared your life well. I hope that you’ve sacrificed yourself time and time again for the things that matter. I hope that the world has felt your impact and that someone’s life is a little better because of you. I hope that you’ve lived a connected life, caught up in the laughter and tears of other people’s stories. I hope that some chains have been loosened, some brokenness has been restored and justice is closer because of the way you’ve chosen to live.
I hope that you’re feeling tired from some hard-core living, I hope you kept your focus on what matters and have enjoyed working and playing hard. I hope that when you finished your job and retired it was simply the beginning of another adventure, I hope your heart is set on something good right now and that you still wake up every day determined to make your dreams become reality.
Most of all, I think, I hope that you’ve lived a story you’re proud to tell. I hope you’ve been free to be yourself and do the things your heart loves. I hope that you’re living your life connected to the heart of God and that worship is your lifestyle. I hope that you’re living out of a power greater than you’re own and seeing heaven invade earth with every step you take. I hope you’re living out justice, grace, freedom and wholeness and that others get a truer sense of who God is as they watch and know you. I hope that you’ve lived a life out of the overflow of being loved unconditionally and that at the end of the day, when all is said and done, you close your eyes with a smile, knowing that there are still greater things ahead of you than anything that has gone before.