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.