A letter to my teenage self… If I knew then, what I know now…

This letter is an adaptation of a message delivered during Youth Day at Mt Zion AME Zion Church in Hayneville AL on Sunday, April 22, 2012… 

Dear Teenage Self,

First, I want to congratulate you…  “Congratulate you for what?” you may be asking yourself but I want to congratulate you for being where you are right now because you are exactly where you are supposed to be.  It took me a long time to realize that because I wanted to grow up, move out, move on, do this and do that; I couldn’t live in the moment and enjoy just being who I was, where I was because I was so focused on where I wanted to go and who I wanted to be.  However, the Bible says “…for I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

I know that it seems like no one really understands what you are going through.  Some days are great and it feels like everything is going your way and then just like that…  It all seems to fall apart.  Your parents don’t get it, your friends betray you and it seems like nothing is good enough.  You probably don’t even understand the emotions that you are feeling but its normal.  You are trying to figure out who you are.  Just remember:  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”  (Romans 8:28-30)

One of the greatest struggles that you may be having right now is learning how to deal with people.  Even in my thirties, I am still learning.  However, I replay this scripture in my head, “no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.”  (Isaiah 54:17) but I also must remind you to “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.” (Philippians 3:14-15)

And I cannot forget to give you some advice on relationships.  I spent so many of my teen and twenty years looking for love in all of the wrong places.  I wanted someone to love me for me and I didn’t know what that love looked like so I accepted it from people who didn’t mean it, I accepted in ways that were not fulfilling to my mind, body or soul but I felt like an empty vessel wanting someone to pour into me.  I didn’t realize that my vessel was broken because of things I went through in my childhood that made it hard for me to accept love.  Love is not that thing between a boy and a girl that you may think resides between your legs.  “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  (1 John 4:7-10)

And of course, we have to discuss school…  I know you think some of the stuff that you are learning in school is a waste of your time.  Let me assure that it isn’t.  My mother always told me in school to get an education, to graduate and get a degree and if college wasn’t for me to learn a skill because that was something that no one could take from me.  Don’t be tempted by get rich quick schemes rather “Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare to her.”  (Proverbs 8:10-11).  In 1712, a slave owner from the West Indies named Willie Lynch visited a colony in Virginia and he shared these words with plantation owners about ways to control their slaves that he guaranteed would work for at least 300 years, “take these differences and make them bigger.  I use fear, distrust and envy for control purposes…  Take this simple little list of differences and think about them.  On top of my list is “age,” but it’s there only because it starts with an “a.  The second is “color” or shade.  There is intelligence, size, sex, sizes of plantations, status on plantations…  I shall assure you that distrust is stronger than trust and envy stronger than adulation, respect or admiration.  The Black slaves after receiving this indoctrination shall carry on and will become self-refueling and self-generating for hundreds of years, maybe thousands.”  Think about it, 300 years later and look where we are.  You have opportunities today that your grandparents never imagined but ask yourself what are you doing with those opportunities.  Where are your priorities?  In 2000, Willie Lynch III, the grandson of Willie Lynch, wrote these words, “building on my great-grandfather’s work, we can see how we can continue to reap profits from the Blacks without the effort of physical slavery.  We will focus on the current methods of containment that they use on themselves: ignorance, greed and selfishness.”

Sometimes I look back and wish that I knew then what I know now…  I think about all of the lessons that I learned the hard way because I didn’t want to listen to what anyone had to say.  I thought I had it figured it and I knew it all.  I didn’t.  I went into the world filled with selfish pride but I thank God for a praying family because when I thought all was lost, when I thought there was no hope and nowhere to turn…  I remembered that I had to stop trying to fit in because I was born to stand out, “you are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:13-16)

In closing, keep these words at the forefront of your mind, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body.”  (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

With Love,

LaKesha S. Womack

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5 thoughts on “A letter to my teenage self… If I knew then, what I know now…

  1. Fannie S. Adams says:

    LaKesha,

    I really enjoyed your message on yesterday. I truly believe you inspired our youth and that is what we prayed the outcome of the program would be.

    Thank you for your devotion to the word of God and for allowing God to use you.

    I pray that the Holy Spirit be with you on May 20th as you embark upon a new and bright chapter in your life.

    Fannie S. Adams

    Like

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