The other day I found my boys, Trent and Troy, giggling over an old photo album they’d found. After plopping into the couch with them and enduring some good-natured ribbing about old hairstyles and clothing choices their mother and I had once made, one photo in particular grabbed my attention.
It was a snapshot of me with my arm around Troy’s shoulder when he was about five years old. I was immediately struck by how much he looked like me at that same age. And the photo caught me off guard in another way. Maybe I was tired, or the room’s lighting fell across the photo just right – but, for a split second, it was as if the adult me was sitting with the childhood me.
And it made me wonder:
If I had an opportunity now, as an adult, to actually sit down with myself as a youngster, what would I say? At that age, I was soon to lose my mother to cancer. I was also dealing with a career soldier turned step-father – a tough-as-nails man we called “Hank the Tank.” He walked out on me and my older siblings within hours of my mother’s funeral, leaving us with nothing. I had no way of knowing then that I’d spend the majority of my childhood being passed from one foster home to another – 23 to be exact!
But there were high points as well. I became a Christian as a teenager. I married Jean, the love of my life, not long out of college. We were blessed with two boys we absolutely adore. I’ve been privileged to serve families through Focus for over twenty years now. And those are just a few highlights of how God has blessed my life.
So what would I tell my younger self if I had a chance to sit down and put an arm around him?
I’d tell him not to lose heart! I’d urge him not to grow tired or weary through the tears. I’d make sure that little guy understood how much God loves him and how He would see him through all the tough spots ahead. But I’d also encourage him, reminding him about all the wonderful things he’d have to look forward to if he’d just keep his faith in the Lord and allow His plan to unfold.
That’s a perspective I try to carry with me through all of my todays when pressures mount. After all, if my future self could put an arm around me right now, he’d probably encourage me with a lot of the same things:
“There will be ups and downs, but God will be there right by your side through it all. He will not leave you. He will not forsake you.”
Let me ask you. Looking back on your life, what would you tell yourself as a youngster if you got the chance?