Happy sixteenth birthday! As a special treat, I’m going to repeat what everybody always says on teen birthdays—the whole “growing up so fast” thing coupled with depressing statements of irrevocable change and impending doom and then concluding with well-worn (though profound) assurance of how it won’t be so bad, after all.
I spent most of my younger life studying upper respiratory infections in rats and bedding options for horses in hopes of being a vet/breeder/pet store owner. I planned on starting out the store in my bedroom, even had the floor plans all made out in my notebook, though I admittedly had some trouble squeezing in two bunk beds and four sisters between the guinea pig and ferret cages. Life made sense back then. The biggest decisions involved breakfast and what to name my new Littlest Pet Shop bobbleheads—quite a delicate procedure, I can assure you. I had my life planned before I finished elementary school.
By sixteen I couldn’t even find square one again.
Everything happens at once for teenagers—driver’s license, zits, growing pains, hidden futures, boy trouble. Suddenly, everything that you counted on becomes the only thing you can’t understand. Especially yourself. You look in the mirror some mornings and wonder who you are—where you’re going—and why you can’t figure any of it out.
It’s classic teenage drama that I hear everyone else finds so amusing. But it is real. The whole world opens up in places it never did before. I used to run around in homemade red cotton shorts and a yellow VBS tee. Not anymore—I’m buying my own clothes now and doing the modesty check and fretting over whether I look cute enough to impress anybody. I used to play for hours; now I’m trying to figure out what to do with the years as well as the lazy afternoons. I read Nancy Drew—I didn’t wrestle with theology. I argued with siblings—not with myself.
After spending much time crying my eyes out and pulling hair and moaning about the end of the world as I knew it, I began to perk up and look for answers to my confusion. The Bible seemed too vast and general to go digging into all by myself (too much on God, not enough on courtship), so I listened to CDs, attended conferences, read books and prompted discussions on the topics at hand. How do I relate to guys? Should I go to college? Can Christians watch R-rated movies? Are Taylor Swift songs always a corrupting influence? And of course, the ever popular, How will I ever get married? Which is a good idea, theoretically. The problem was that every author, speaker and friend had a completely unique insight and list of rules and word of caution. They even contradicted each other blatantly. And they all had rows of verses to back up their wisdom.
Needless to say, that did not ease my teenage despair.
It got to a point where I hid away all my books, quit reading the opinionated bloggers and even stopped bringing up the controversies in normal conversations. Then I read the Bible alone. Then I spoke—to God alone. Actually, I did more listening. I didn’t pray for my future husband; I didn’t try to figure out pop culture and life in general.
“I want to hear You,” I begged Him. The only voice I wanted to hear. The only one I needed, too.
And that’s when I got it. That’s when I understood what I’d been missing. I’d thought all along that I needed to figure out life, that the Bible was the guide book to learn all the rules, that God was there to keep me out (or bail me out) of trouble. But it ended up not being about rules or “being good” or even me myself—it was about Him. And when I found Him—truly found Him, truly tasted that the Lord was good and truly experienced full-frontal love—everything fell into place. Everything. Even the things and the future I didn’t know exactly, I knew generally: they would be for my good and His glory. That was peace—peace that passed understanding.
I’m a girl who wants answers. I’m a girl who wants to give answers—all the answers, all the right answers, from theology to conviction to life goals. I want to know my future from A to Z, right now, right as a seventeen-year-old who has no clue what tomorrow holds. But I know now, after learning the hard way, that no specific study of college, careers or clothes can ever satisfy the thirst of knowing as much as a genuine, passionate, minute relationship with God. With God, of all beings!
So when you face those forks in the road, the ones it seems your entire unknown future hangs upon, don’t go running for the books and bloggers. Run for Jesus. He’s the answer you want. Learn to know Jesus before anything else. If you can’t understand anything, understand Jesus—because even if the Bible seems silent on many of our most pressing teen issues, it’s chock full of Jesus. And the Bible’s priority is right: when we know Jesus, we’ve figured out life. Jesus said He was life.
It’s something I wish I knew years before. It’s so simple—too simple. You’d think Christianity would get harder as we got older, but it’s the faith of a child that’s truly mature. If we’re looking for answers, He’s got them. It’s worth the world to know Him.
This year, lay hold of that.
Bailey is my number one blogger hero; she's also a sister, daughter, homeschoolee, and college-bound Christian. You can see the posts I've written inspired by her, and her posts that I've shared at this blog, here; you can visit her and read *her* work over at the amazing Big House in the Little Woods.