I drive while she sleeps in the back seat.
She wants to hold a boy’s hand and have a New Years Eve kiss. She wants to travel the country and ask strangers her questions to get their stories on tape. She’s lonely and doesn’t trust and wants someone to prove her cynical heart wrong.
She’s heard my stories. She’s watched me fall and scrape my knees against my broken hopes. She knows the face of every boy who’s stolen kisses from me since I was 13, and she blames their mistakes for her loneliness. She’s put on my bitterness like a hand-me-down sweater, and she keeps friends at arms length from all the times she’s watched me pull the wrong ones too close.
I thought of her last year riding down the highway somewhere in South Carolina in the car with two new friends who wanted to know who I was in high school and what I liked to drink at Starbucks. That was when I had thought I’d gotten it right, thought I’d captured some hope to bring back to her.
I told you that you weren’t alone and begged you not to dehumanize the hearts you encounter. I told you that you weren’t the only lover out there and tried to encourage you to hold out hope for your South Carolina highway ride; tried to tell you that after all the years you spent begging God to give you someone who would stay– you’d find them in that car when you weren’t looking so hard anymore.
I should’ve told you a different story.
I didn’t know who I was trying to convince– you or myself.
Little sister, I wrote you a letter last January, and I think I’ve learned a few more things:
You should know that it’s okay to be alone. You’re going to think that means there’s something wrong with you and that you need to change, to be normal. But it’s okay to be alone. If you don’t fit in, be thankful: this world is full of backstabbers and fighters and fakes and hustlers and we all always change our minds and end up becoming best friends with the people we said we couldn’t stand and we’re all far too self-centered; we forget what we say and take things back. This place is full of people playing dress up, trying to fit in, trying to do right by themselves but making it look like something else– just do right by Him. There won’t be a lot of people standing there with you, but He’ll be there, and the people running the same race will be a lot safer to pull close.
You should know that it’s okay that you don’t want to go to college. Plenty of people don’t go to college. Plenty of people want to quit college. Plenty of people aren’t built for college. Just don’t blame it on God; don’t play the “God told me not to” card. Because what you want to do instead of school– that’s something you’re built for. That’s something that you can talk about and inspire everyone with your passion. Heck, there’s no telling how many people you’ll get volunteering to tag along with you in this life when you’re honest about the things you really love.
You should know that growing up doesn’t fix things. I tried to tell you that it’d all get better when you start to settle into life, but nothing changes. You still lose people and you still fear losing people. You can still be wrong about your opinions and heartbreakers and friends. I wish I could go back to that car in South Carolina and tell you the pretty story about how I waited so long to buckle myself into that seat and rest in finding my people, but I don’t have those people anymore.
You should know that it’s not about any of those things. The loneliness. The feeling that there’s something wrong with you. The waiting and the hoping. The first kisses. It’s not about staying or people.
I should’ve told you more about Jesus.
I should’ve made that my story, our story.
I should’ve told you about what it’s like to get mad at Him and how He still waits for you.
I should’ve told you more about the feast He set out for me when I finally came back home.
I should’ve told you about how He stays.
I should’ve told you about all the little ways He uniquely romanced my heart, how He reminded me He was there.
I should’ve told you about all the lonely places I found Him hiding in.
I should’ve told you more about the notes I took at Passion Conference and the way I highlighted the story of the woman at the well seven different ways and how many church services left me crying in a bathroom.
I should’ve told you more about what it felt like to feel love and peace and grace from Him when it was hard to breathe, hard to forgive, hard to extend an olive branch.
I should’ve told you less about the pain and more about the ways He made it better.
I shouldn’t have tried to tell you how worthy you are and should’ve tried to tell you to stop focusing on the pain and the loneliness and your hopes and yourself– I should’ve told you to look up and keep staring at Him.
I should’ve told you to look at Jesus more.
You should know it gets better. No, the lonely doesn’t leave and the anxiety comes back in the happiest of times, but it all does get better. Just not in the ways you think or hope. It sort of sneaks up on you until one day it’s less about the hole in your chest and more about the holes in His hands. A year will flatten you and rebuild you, because He promises to rebuild. You won’t get left undone or alone or hating yourself. You’ll have Him.
He should’ve been the hope I’ve been trying to give you.