Hi Sweet 16,
Yes I remember, you had been kissed and broken up with your first boyfriend just before you turned 16. You had given your heart to God as your first love at the age of 15 and at 16 you decided you wanted to wait to give yourself completely to one man only on your wedding night. You celebrated your 16th birthday, like every other, in the heat of summer holidays with family and then a party with friends after the school year started. Year 11 was significant; there was a restlessness to launch into the big wide world and to pursue the nursing career that you had wanted since a little girl. Your sister would be leaving for the “big smoke” to go to University and you were suddenly to be an only child with loving parents transitioning to the idea of being empty nesters. I am glad you still went running in the early mornings with your Dad on the beach. He would walk while you ran the length of the beach. Turning to run back you loved running toward him, knowing that your training would be done when you met him and you could walk and talk the rest of the way back. I am thankful you didn’t know a brain tumour was silently growing in his head. God gave you many more years as a daughter of your earthly Dad. I do remember it was in that year that your Dad cried and said he wanted to find the sort of faith in God that you had found. I am glad in the following years he did.
Teachers seemed to have changed over the summer break and become friendly even taking on a mentoring role as you entered your senior years. I am glad that you sought your youth leader to take a similar role in your life. You wrestled to understand the bible and found a little scripture that talked about asking for wisdom so you began to ask for Godly wisdom as a gift in prayer. As some friends dabbled in drugs and binge drinking weekends, you read the words of a parable that made you realise leaving all you had been offered in a friendship with God to drink the dregs of this other life was a senseless choice and so you said no, a resounding no. When criticised by friends you simply enlarged your circle of friends and somehow navigated that time with no loss of love.
You were so surprised that you were voted in as a prefect by teachers and students. I can see now this was a God opportunity and you learned a lot. You were pretty brave starting the Christian ISCF group at lunch times and I smile when I think of the Christian musicians and speakers you organised for assemblies.
The things you chose then have formed the woman that writes to you today. Thanks for giving things a go. Thanks for doing some pretty crazy things because you thought they mattered. Remember the time when you made an appointment to see the school principal to ask him about what he believed? That was crazy. What was it that prompted you? I remember you felt scared, but more than being scared you wanted the leader of your school to know there was a God who loved him. I think you even prayed for him that day. That was a pretty crazy thing for a 16 year old to do.
…… The wider world had always sounded fascinating especially when your mum spoke of her younger years of travel. You longed to explore that world and you did after you finished your nursing training. However, when you turned 16 you learned about a darker side of the world. It came through people your age that after fleeing the war in Vietnam in sinking boats, were brought to the school next door to yours. You learned the frightening lesson, not from a book but from life, that people can seem free and whole but still carry a deep trauma that in a moment of unexplained assault can leave a student from you own school stabbed, belly gashed and internally damaged. You didn’t see it but the news of it and the pale face and glassy eyes of the student when you saw him later stayed with you. What formed in you at that time was not hatred, but a deep knowing that our world is deeply wounded in a way only the healing of God can help. I know it was dislocating but with help you navigated that time and now I carry that memory as a force to seek compassionate ways to minister to others.
You have always loved life and I am so glad you lived by the ocean when you were 16. The love of diving into cool waves and having sand between my toes will remain even when I am old and grey. The places we revisit carry meaning as long as our minds help us remember them, thanks for seeking out Gods creation, for awakening the awe of his mystery in my youth.
Thanks for sticking with the music lessons too. I know you loved singing and found the piano lessons tedious. If you hadn’t learned to read bass cleft music I would not have been able to pursue that dream you had of learning the cello. I have done it as an adult in recent years and love it.
There is so much more I could tell you about what happened that year and in the years to follow. You were so young and as I look at a school photo of you back then and think of what the years have held in between I can only be grateful for all that the Lord did in you then and all that he has done in the years since.
Bless you sweet smiley 16 year old girl, as you used to end your letters
Must fly Love you heaps xoxoxo