Notes to My 18 Year Old Self

Yesterday I had the tremendous honor of addressing the 2010 graduates Charles Herbert Flowers High School at their annual baccalaureate service. I am always amused when I talk to high-school students about to graduate because they are so excited, but they really don't have a clue. They haven't the slightest idea how confusing and complicated life is about to become for them once this moment of celebration passes. They don't realize that the innocence and simplicity of this moment in their lives is about to vanish into thin air only to be replaced with enough freedoms, challenges, conflicts, and opportunities to keep them completely confused for years to come. As I prepared to share in this special moment, I couldn't help but to think back eighteen years to when I graduated high school (it seems like yesterday). I can't tell you anything about the speakers at my graduation or numerous award ceremonies that took place (although it probably would have been helpful if at least one of them had warned me of things like some of your so-called "friends" will be haters; you'll have to learn to live on one fast-food meal a day because campus food sucks; don't date that guy, that guy, or that guy.......better yet, don't date anybody until you meet your husband). What I can tell you is that looking back I realize that there were a number of significant people who poured into my life and believed in me. They planted the right seeds of encouragement and empowerment so that years later when I experienced unimaginably difficult times, I could use their words as a mirror to reflect the "me" I once said I wanted to be and still had the power to become.

graduates gathered in prayer

Among the many things I ultimately decided to share with the graduates, the last thing I told them is to decide today who it is you want to be tomorrow. I said there may come a time when you lose yourself, it’s almost certain to happen. I warned them that a time may come when wrong choices, scars incurred from errant selections of boyfriends and girlfriends, a bad grade, rejection from friends, and missed opportunities may make you feel that you are a mere shell of the person you use to be. There may come a time when you wonder what happened and you say to yourself I use to be so smart, so driven, with so much potential. I told them that this is why it’s important to choose today who you want to be tomorrow, so that when you lose yourself you can find yourself again by remembering who you said you wanted to be. When you find yourself in a bad place, then the "you" that you said you wanted to be will not only bear witness against your bad choices, but also speak life to your spirit and revive the gifts inside of you. The message to the 2010 graduates is essentially the same for us even now that many of us are well beyond our high school graduation moment. The message is simply this- God already knows every choice, every decision, every mistake, every success, every failure you will ever make and he still has not changed his mind about you. So don’t you ever change your mind about yourself or give up on being who God created you to be!