Before you get too old and grown up I want you to take the time to read this letter I wrote to you. You are only 11 years old now and just starting middle school, but you have a very long and exciting life ahead of you. Things will not always be this easy, and handed to you on a platter. You will have to work at growing up, making good choices, and being successful. Life right now seems great.
I know elementary school was a breeze for you. I guess that “D” you received on a test a few years ago really kicked you into high gear after being grounded from a soccer game. I know it really hurt you to watch your team lose with you standing on the sidelines. Mom and Dad hit you where it hurt – your love for sports. It was a lesson well learned and will never happen again. You will not always be scrawny. Even though you will be the last of your classmates to leap up and touch the bottom of the net on a basketball hoop, you will be the first out of all them to dunk a basketball. Sports will always play a huge role in your life. You will always love competition. Sometimes your competiveness will get you in trouble, especially when your temper flares up when you lose. You will, unfortunately, slam bats down when you strike out, yell at the refs over a bad call earning technical fouls in basketball games, and raise your fists to players when you are out trying to steal a base.
I need you to listen up here. Sports are just games. They are not going to define you as a person. I hate to tell you this now, and it might hurt, but you are not going to be a professional athlete. You’ll play sports in high school and be very successful. You’ll set records that still stand today as a 4-year starting varsity goaltender in water polo. Yes, you heard me correctly – you will not play soccer, basketball, or baseball after middle school is finished. Water polo, swimming, and volleyball will be your sports. You will even run cross country in college, and run a 4 minute 40 second mile. But it is your character qualities that will define you as a person, both on and off the court.
You’ll graduate from middle school with only 14 kids in your class, and attend the public high school with 600 plus in your freshmen class and only knowing three of them on the first day of school. With four lunch shifts and your shyness to meet people you will, unfortunately, eat by yourself on the first day. It’ll be OK though, because on the second day of school, you will go out of your comfort zone and meet three other guys and sit with them for lunch. It will get easier and easier to make friends after this, and you will become a people person for the rest of your life. You will have the same group of friends all four years; in fact, some of them you are still friends with as of today. Thankfully, your choice of friends will be good ones. They will not be partiers, drinkers, or druggies, but will be friendly and outgoing with all. Your group will not be the most popular, but will be the most liked by everyone. Who you choose as friends in high school and when you get older will determine the type of individual you will become. Choose wisely. Your friends will have a big impact on your life.
Temptation will not be a huge issue in high school. You will be asked to buy a gun and drugs in the bathroom your freshmen year, but you will politely say no and leave. You will have good morals and know right from wrong. Mom and Dad will raise you well and teach you how to live a godly life. Listen to them. They do know what they are talking about. You will regularly be involved with youth groups and be a leader to the younger kids. I’m so glad you accepted Christ into your heart at a young age. You will definitely need God later on in life. Don’t ever stop losing faith.
The summer before your senior year in high school you will attend and sing at a teacher’s wedding. (Yes, choir will be a big part of your life throughout high school. You will earn all-district and all-state honors on multiple occasions. You will play a lead role in the musical “Grease” your senior year. You will also sing in the traveling choir your freshmen year in college). At the wedding of the teacher you will drink your first beer. Thankfully, it’ll take you about an hour to drink the entire cup, so it won’t get you buzzed; plus, you will not enjoy the taste so it will prevent you from drinking more.
All in all, your life will seem easy up to this point. When you turn 18 and head off to college, though, life will not be the same. You will be on your own, making your own choices and decisions. There will be many great moments and memories that you will remember forever, and you will make many lifelong friends. Cherish those moments and never forget them. You will also experience alcohol more often than you should and enjoy it way too much. You will still be sociable and continue to make friends, but you will begin hanging out with the party goers and drinking more. Alcohol will not affect your life now, but, unfortunately, down the road it’ll have an impact on the decisions you make. Thankfully, you will graduate with a 3.0 grade point average, and a degree in education with a minor in youth ministry.
Mom and Dad will be proud of you, especially after you accept a call to be a teacher in Hawaii. If only I could convince you now to stay in Hawaii longer than a year of teaching. Living there for a year will be all you can take, and you will move back to Wisconsin. You will teach at three different schools in three years, and finally find one you enjoy. You will absolutely love being a teacher and athletic director, especially coaching sports and helping students out with all their problems. And let me tell you, you will deal with a ton of issues on a daily basis. But all the students will love you and think highly of you. You’ll even be a father figure to the ones without dads.
Watch out for those parents, though. They are tough. More times than none they will think their “little Johnny” is a perfect angel that can’t do wrong. You will need to coddle those parents and guide them through those middle school years as well. You will also have a parent that will raise his fist to you three times threatening to strike you over his daughter’s playing time in a softball game. Don’t worry; he won’t hit you. Just walk away from the situation and be a better man.
As much as you love to teach, it will wear you down. You will continuously work from 6:00 am to 10:00pm six to seven days a week. Because of this, your relationships with your friends, girlfriends, family and God will go on a downward spiral. Even though you will teach religion in school you will start to become a hypocrite by what you teach. You will hardly go to church, spend too much time at the bars, cuss like a sailor, and befriend those who are considered lower class. You will be at casinos until the wee hours of the morning. You will hardly smile and joke around like you used to, and you will get angry at the pettiest of things. You will barely talk to God in prayer, and continually justify how you live your life by telling yourself that it’s OK to live this way, because God forgives you. Then you will make a choice that will cause you to go to prison.
Yes, you heard me right. I said the P word. AM I SCARING YOU? I hope so. I’m sure you just got a knot in your stomach by what you just read. You officially hit rock bottom when you commit your crime at age 31 years of age. However, I must honestly say this will be the best thing that will ever happen to you. I know you’re asking yourself right now how prison can be the best for me. You are so confused, aren’t you? What I mean is…… physically, this will be the hardest and scariest situation you will ever face. However, mentally and spiritually this will be the best for you. As I said before, you will be on your way to destruction, a road destined to failure. However, God will intervene and save you. YES! THIS IS CORRECT!! God will save your life by allowing you to face your consequences and come to prison. No, He doesn’t want you to go to prison, but since He knows everything, He knows prison is what you need to turn your life around and get you back on track to follow His will and ways.
The day you get arrested will literally open up your eyes to the horrific lifestyle you are living. God will get your attention. He will basically say “Whoa! It’s time to reel you back in; this might hurt, but in the long run this will make you a better person and help you lead a better life”. You will spend a few days in jail before posting bail; then move back to St. Louis to live with Mom and Dad, where the refining process will begin. You will ask Mom and Dad to forgive you for bringing them into this mess which you created by your reckless lifestyle, and they will forgive. Their unconditional love for you will never waver.
The next eighteen months will be long and stressful dealing with the judicial system. However, you will be able to take your mind off these issues by working at a golf course. This will be part of the refining process by experiencing God’s creation in the wee hours of the morning watching the sun rise and the wildlife scurrying across the course. Tears will come quite frequently as you feel God’s presence shine down on you while you are alone on a fairway. Each day you will feel closer and close to God. He will speak to you quite often and you to Him. You will live your life for Him again, and most importantly, surrender your whole life to Him, and commit to His will. You know and realize God has everything under control, and knows what is best for you.
You obviously do not want to go to prison, but realize if God needs you there then you will trust Him. Your friends and family will forgive and support you, and you pray that even the people you wronged will one day also forgive you. Most importantly, God will forgive you. He will make you as white as snow, and cast your sins into the deepest parts of the ocean. Prison will be scary, but you will survive. God will protect you in a number of occasions. You will place yourself in the “Hole” (solitary confinement) for your own protection for 6 months, but will witness to both of your cellies while there. You will be in three different prisons in three different states. The inmates you encounter will see that spark in your eyes and who you live for. Some will even say they want what you got. They will recognize you and what you’re about……by the way you hold yourself and what you say. You will be a walking testimony. Unfortunately, some inmates will mock you and make fun of you, but that will only make you stronger.
Time will go fast. The changes in your life will be dramatic and very positive. You will be happy and joyous, just like you are now at the age of 11. You will constantly encourage and lift others up. You will put others first over yourself on a regular basis. You will show caring and sympathy to those who need it. You will listen when someone needs a sounding board. You will share words when someone needs advice. You will be there when someone needs a shoulder to cry on, and to pray with them. You will not only survive, but thrive in prison. Even though you will be locked away you will be set free and at peace. This is not the end of the road, but a start as to what is to come. God will look down on you and say, “This is my son whom I love.”
As I close this letter, I just want to say that God gives every person free will. He gives them the choice to do right and wrong, and gives everyone the choice to accept Him into their lives. You accepted Him into your life at a young age. You will lead a godly life most of your days, but will slip and fall when worldly desires overtake you. After God has broken you down you will come back to Him stronger than ever, and realize that you need Him. He will always be there for you. When the times are tough, He will be there; when it feels like you are alone, He will be there. He will always wait for you to come back to Him with wide open arms and has your life planned perfectly. You will be His light in dark places. Others will see that light, and you’ll make an impact. Be that inspiration to them.
Many will come to Christ. Live one day at a time and live it to the fullest. Always smile. A smile can brighten someone’s day in an instant, and love as God loves you. If you find His calling to take His Word to the deepest jungles of the Amazon or to the slums of New York or even back to prison as a volunteer, do it. Always place God first and then your friends before yourself. Friends are important to have. Don’t sweat the small things; they will eventually come to pass. Focus on the eternal goal, which is heaven. You are a Christian. Represent God in everything you do. I don’t know what your life will be like after you leave prison, but one thing I do know that your life is in good hands. Keep your faith, stay hopeful, and love. One day soon you’ll be reunited with all the people you lead to Christ. Keep up the good work, and continue to do what God wants you to do. As you live your life, remember the hard times and struggles you will face down the road. But don’t despair over them. Your life is a story and will have a good ending because the best is yet to come!
Love, Me Today