Dear Middle Schooler,

Dearest, I know you’re under a lot of pressure right now. I know what they’re telling you to be. I hear you as you’re stressed out about trying to be pretty enough, trying to fit in, trying to find someone to love you, and trying to balance your friends, school, and your weird family. You’ve got pressures coming at you from all sides, and I know you’re struggling.

You’ve just hit “the awkward stage” so nothing seems to come out right or look right and you’re still trying to figure yourself out, but it’s hard because everything is changing so fast. Sometimes you think you’ve got it all together and figured out, but then you feel like everything is falling apart.

I hear you talking in the backseat of my car, “Oh my word, I am so dumb.” “I can’t believe I said that. I am so stupid.” “Will it make me prettier? I’m already ugly enough.” “I can’t have anymore. I am too fat.”

Darling, my heart is breaking for you. This is not who you are.

I’m going to tell you a secret – you will always struggle with these things.

Yes, you learn that maybe curls are not a good idea or that you really shouldn’t wear those pants. You learn how to hide the pimples and cover up the crooked tooth when you smile. You learn how to pretend like you’re balancing all the relationships in your life. You learn how to flirt without falling over (maybe). The mood swings get a little better. You learn to blame sadness on Dementors so you have an excuse to eat more chocolate. But unless you change the things you claim about yourself, you will always feel a little ugly, a little too fat, a little stupid, a little lonely.

Everything is awkward right now, but everything about you is also so very good. You, my darling, have bad moments, but that never takes away from the fact that, at the very core, you are made up entirely of good things. I was blessed with amazing parents who taught me these things, but I don’t see this in your life, so sit down and prepare for a lecture of the most loving sort. Because you, my sweet human, are worth this and so much more.

Ahem. Are you paying attention?

Write these words on your heart. Soak them in and let them change how you see yourself, how you talk about yourself, and how you see others.

You are good things. You have bad moments.

You are good things. You feel bad things.

You are smart, but sometimes you have dumb moments. And that’s okay. It’s okay to have dumb moments. You can’t always be the smartest person in the room or have all the answers. You’re not always going to be smart in the same way other people are. But that moment is temporary. When it comes back down to it, and you’re back in your element, at the core of who you are, you are smart.

You are beautiful, but sometimes you feel ugly. And that’s okay. It’s okay to feel ugly. Feeling is honest. You feel the way you do and there’s nothing wrong with that. But feelings are also temporary. When it comes back down to it, once the feeling is gone, at the core of who you are, you are beautiful.

You are a mountain of good things. You were created with loving care by a Creator who never makes mistakes. He formed your body, your heart, your brain, and He made every inch of you immensely precious and wonderful. You, precious one, are His loving creation. You are created by The Artist. You are covered in His fingerprints, surrounded by His love, and cherished beyond measure.

It’s okay to have bad moments and bad feelings, as long as that’s all the are. The way you feel is the way you feel. It’s honest. If you feel angry, feel angry. But don’t let it become who you are. If you feel fat, feel fat. But don’t buy into the lie that you are fat. If you feel ugly, feel ugly. But when the feeling passes, remember that you are a priceless, handmade, glorious piece of art.

It’s completely okay to feel things. It’s not okay to become them.

Next time you’re in the backseat of my car, I want to hear, “Oh my word, I feel so dumb.” “I can’t believe I said that. I feel so stupid.” “Will it make me prettier? I feel ugly right now.” “I can’t have anymore. I feel too fat.”

I’m okay with those things. My heart will still break for the frequency with which those words come out of your mouth, but I know that, as you grow more comfortable with yourself and who God made you, those feelings will be less prevalent.

Darling, at the end of the day, if you hear nothing else, know that you are loved beyond measure and you’re okay. Whatever you feel and whatever you struggle with and whatever you believe about yourself, you are okay. Hang in there. The awkward stage does end. Eventually.

Dearest middle schooler, you are good.

“Course He Isn’t Safe. But He’s Good.”

I don’t want your god of rainbows and butterflies, your god who dances in fields and makes daisy chains and takes you on picnics, or your god who always forgives, is never angry, is always gentle, and is always super positive. I don’t want your sheep, your bright ball of light, your grandfatherly figure, and your heavenly Santa Claus.

Sorry, lovely, the God of this universe is not a kindly, old, gray-haired, hippy grandfather. Yes, He romances us. Yes, He always, 100%-of-the-time, no-matter-what forgives us. Yes, He is gentle with us, even when He breaks us.

But please, please, don’t lose sight of the sword in the folds of his robe. Don’t lose sight of the fire in His eyes. Don’t forget that, when people see Him without protection, they die. Don’t forget that His angels cause warriors to fall to the ground and fear for their life. Don’t forget that this is the God who ripped His own heart out of His chest and put it on earth for us to trample on and abuse. Don’t forget that He has sacrificed everything and daily fights for us.

There are times in my life when I need the God who romances me, who paints sunsets and plants flowers, and who puts people in my life to say a gentle word, and He is always faithful to provide that. But mostly, if I’m really honest, I need the God who will stand over my curled up, incapacitated soul and fight away the darkness with His sword.

I need the God who pushes my boundaries. I need the God who chisels away painfully at my soul, working on me and convicting me to become more like Him. I need the God who is covered to His elbows in the blood of my enemies, who fights for me while I cower behind Him, who hands me a sword and pushes me into the fray when I don’t think I’m brave enough or strong enough.

I need the God who doesn’t cut me slack, who demands perfection, who is angry with a righteous anger when I walk away or hurt Him, who lets me face the consequences of my choices, and who is always waiting to take me back. I need the God who knows me better than I know myself. I need the God who molded my face with His fingers – the fingers that built up the mountains and leveled the plains and carved out the unfathomable, deep places for the oceans.

I need the God who is strong enough to carry me when I can’t walk on my own. I need the God who never tires, never sleeps, never fails, and never gives up on me. I need the God who is as desperate for me as I am for Him and will go to whatever lengths He must to win my heart and soul.

One of my most favorite quotes of all time is from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Susan is talking with Mr. Beaver about Aslan, and she says, “Is he – quite safe?” And Mr. Beaver replies, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

The God I need, the God I serve, is not safe.

To be safe, He would have to be small enough to be understood. He would have to be something I could pull into tiny pieces and figure out. He would have to be small enough for me to wrap my head around. He would have to be predictable and quantifiable.

I could never worship Him, serve Him, give my life to Him, or follow Him if He were small enough to be safe.

So, please, throw away your safe God. Throw away the thing you’ve shrunk God into. Throw away your tiny, one-dimensional view of God. Throw away the PC, kind, loving, old man floating on a cloud in the sky. Remember that the Creator of the Universe and all its intricacies could never be small enough for you, the created, to truly grasp.

But always remember that He is good.

No matter how ferocious He is, no matter how angry He gets, no matter how powerful He is, no matter how strong He is, no matter how much control He has, no matter how much you run away, no matter how jealous He is for you, and no matter how much He longs for you, He will always be good. Always.

I rest in His hand, covered by the strength of His mighty right arm. I know that His unfathomable love for me is why He protects me. I know that He will always be there to bind up my wounds and carry me to safety.

Because I know the strength of my God, I know that there is nothing He cannot face, there is nothing He will shrink from, and there is nothing that can defeat Him. I know that, because He loves me as His own child, I am cherished with both the ferocity of a warrior and the gentleness of a father. I know that I am always cared for, always loved, and always safe when I rest in the palm of His hand.

I can rest knowing that I will always be protected. I have peace knowing that I will always be delivered. I have courage knowing that I will never fight alone. I have hope knowing that He will never stop fighting to make the world right again.

My Protector, my Father, my Savior, my Lord, and my God will never abandon me, never grow tired of me, never hurt me maliciously, and never forsake me. The Destroyer of my enemies is my Great Physician. The Pillar of Fire is my Calm Waters. I am never alone. I am never forsaken. I will never be abandoned. I am safe.

I’ll take that over your puny half-god any day.