Hello, John. This is a letter from your older self. I am thirty-one years old now and am writing to give you some insight as to how this life of yours will play out. I need to warn you that you are in for quite a journey. One that will unfortunately be filled with much pain, suffering, and addictions. But don’t despair. Your trials will not overtake you. They will only serve to make you stronger and give you a voice to help others. So don’t lose hope. God’s unfailing love will help you overcome every trial.
Cling to the truth of God’s love at all times, John, no matter how bleak your circumstances. His perfect love will always remain just that—perfect—even when you are not. It will never fail you or abandon you.
Now to the details of your life…
From day one, your life will be a challenge. You’ll be born two months premature to a mother who is addicted to cocaine. Your wrist will be so small that your father’s wedding ring will fit around it. The power of your mother’s drug addictions will cause her to abandon you and your father, and she will be sentenced to five years in prison. Because of her addictions and incarceration, you will feel unloved, abandoned, and never good enough. Sadly, these emotions will lead you down a dark path.
By the age of six, you will become a thief. You will take what you want because you feel that the world owes you. Your grandmother will do all she can to mold you into a respectable man, but you will resist her efforts. You will resist the efforts of many in your young life.
At the age of nine, you will experience sexual abuse, and that encounter will lead to much guilt and shame. You have to know, John, this abuse is not your fault. There is nothing you could have done to prevent it.
Crooked teeth and untrendy clothes will add to this shame. By ten years old, you will be so insecure in who you are and how the world sees you that you will do whatever it takes to be accepted. You will lie, cheat, and steal…anything to blend in with the crowd. You want so badly to be accepted.
For years, you hold out hope that your mother will come home. While in prison, she tells you time and time again that when she gets out, you’re going to be a family again. But it will never happen. One day, you and your siblings will go to pick her up from prison, and you’ll watch her get into another man’s car and drive off. John, I need you to realize that this, too, is not your fault.
Her actions will be very confusing and cause abandonment issues for years to come. You will turn to relationships and sexual immorality to comfort your broken heart. You will use physical intimacy to help you feel validated, but it will only lead to more heartbreak.
In high school, your character, wit, and athletic abilities will draw lots of attention. You will use them to your advantage and become a popular, well-liked athlete. Athletics will be your tool to vie for the attention of your father…but you will never receive it. His lack of support will add yet another layer of hurt to your heart.
Many families will shower real love upon you during this time, but fear and lack of understanding will prevent you from accepting their love. You will hurt these people, John, as you take out the resentment and anger you hold against your parents on them. You will burn every bridge you have, and no one will want you around.
You will turn to substances to comfort the pain that is overtaking your heart and ultimately develop your own addictions. For sixteen years, the comfort of drugs and alcohol will be all that you live for and will fuel every word you speak and every choice you make. But drugs and alcohol will only lead to more suffering. I can’t even begin to explain all the pain that your addictions will cause. They will lead to homelessness and even cause you to contract a deadly virus at the age of 18. Your addictions will also lead to many arrests, incarcerations, and treatment centers. Between the ages of 18 and 29, you will spend just two years and nine months outside of an institution.
Behind bars, you will question your existence, your behavior, and your purpose in life. You will believe that you are one of the worst human beings on the planet. You will develop a fear that you are nothing but a vessel of destruction to bring other people harm and misery.
Overwhelmed with hopelessness and tired of being controlled by your addictions, you will finally come to the end of yourself. And at the end of yourself, you will finally find a new beginning.
While incarcerated, you will meet a man named Bruce Carter. He will tell you about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and he will show you the unconditional love of this Gospel. For some reason, you will open up to him and express all your doubts, fears, and concerns.
Bruce will respond to your openness with these words: “From the moment that you were born, John, you have been walking away from God and His love. He’s waiting for you to turn around.”
He will speak of Jesus and the blood Jesus shed on the cross for the forgiveness of your sin. While you listen to this man, only about 1/1 millionth of your inner being will believe what he’s saying. But that small amount of faith will be enough. You will finally turn, John, toward the love of God. And with this turn, everything you thought you knew will change. Your entire world will be flipped upside down.
On July 4, 2013, you will receive the Holy Spirit, who will begin to guide, shape, and redirect the course of your life. Trust Him, John. He will provide you with an undeniable sense of peace, comfort, and love. This is the love I was telling you about in the beginning of this letter. This love will satisfy you and make you whole.
Because of the Holy Spirit, you will understand the Gospel, and this knowledge will fuel your life. You must know, John, that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Peace, love, joy, patience, self-control, gentleness, and other fruit of the Spirit will begin to manifest inside of you. You will finally feel complete—drugs, sex, and the world’s offerings will no longer appeal to you.
At times, you’ll still experience doubt and trust issues, even with God. You will feel He has abandoned you. In those times, plant yourself under the waterfall of God’s grace and wait on Him. He will help you overcome your doubts and reassure you that you are His child and that He is your Father. Your heavenly Father will never give up on you, even when you are prideful, arrogant, self-sufficient, or try to create your own path.
In His mercy, God will break you down and rebuild you. But it won’t be a quick restoration process. Remember, John, you spent 28 years destroying your life, so be patient and don’t be too hard on yourself. Change will come, but it will take time.
God will do an amazing work inside your heart and mind. He will also do an amazing work in your life. How? Rather than being sentenced to 20 years in prison for your most recent offense, the sovereignty of God will overcome the judge, and you will receive only a seven-month sentence. The issue of you being a habitual offender will not even be brought up! And remember that deadly virus you contracted at the age of 18? Well, God will completely heal you of it and even make a way for the massive medical bills you accrued because of this virus to be covered. Listen to this—of the $100,000 in medical bills you owe, God will miraculously cover $99,995 of it! You will be responsible only for the five-dollar copay!
God will also connect you with a church called First Baptist Leesburg that has a Christian care center for men who suffer with addictions. You will spend nine months there being taught and trained by men God has called to lead you. Listen to them and take it all in. You will learn much.
Shortly after this, God will provide an opportunity for you to work and reestablish yourself as a man. He will give you new desires, dreams, and goals. Serving others will bring you great joy. There will be many opportunities to share your story of restoration and help others overcome their addictions. And one day, you will stand before the local Chamber of Commerce and will have been without drugs and alcohol for over three years!
Oh, and it just gets better, John. You will obtain a college degree in biblical studies and will help others understand God’s love for them. God will surround you with a loving family and a multitude of godly mothers and fathers. He will place you among families with children who have experienced the same neglect and abandonment that you did as a child. You will love them and encourage them. And then—then!—He will bring you a friend, Melissa, who will become your wife, and things you never dreamed could be yours will be yours.
John, growing up, you experienced much pain. Know that God has loved you all along and has always had you in His heart and mind. You have been predestined before the creation of the world to be His child, for He knitted you together in your mother’s womb.
Nothing in your life has ever been wasted. If you had not experienced what you did as a child, you would not love Him the way that you do now. If you hadn’t experienced the slavery of addictions, you wouldn’t have understood the freedom of God. Everything happens in God’s great purpose for a reason, even though you couldn’t see it at the time.
Enjoy your life, John. Be grateful, love others, and forgive. Never miss an opportunity to tell others how God has changed your life. Make Jesus’s name known throughout the nations by glorifying Him in all you do. You will never regret a life devoted to Him.
I have just one more thing to tell you. The Steelers will win two Super Bowls during the first 31 years of your life. They will also lose two. They will be victorious against the Cardinals and the Seahawks, and lose to the Cowboys and the Packers. And, no, I won’t tell you the scores, because I forgot to mention, at the age of 21, you had a massive gambling problem. But that, too, you have overcome!
Your future self