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A Letter to Myself: Choose a Different Way.
by Jennifer Kelly on March 15th, 2016

"Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths."  
-M. Scott Peck, MD The Road Less Traveled

My Dearest Me,

As I sit here and reflect, a thought keeps bubbling up in my mind. I've been thinking about it for a while now and writing it down (and out) seems like the best course of action. I don't want you to forget my thoughts, or the helpful insight from others on the subject of how to face life's difficulties (and our very creative excuses to escape them). So a letter from me to you seems appropriate. Keep it; read it when you are facing a trial, situation or problem, and use it to face anything life throws your way with tenacity and insight. The goal is for us to start to change the way in which we interact with life itself. Consistently. That's the hope anyway. We both know that words are nothing if not accompanied with change.

I'm not entirely sure what we have come to expect out of life (the very fact that we legitimately expect something from life to begin with should tell you a thing, or two, about our neurosis or if nothing else, much about where in the world we live). What makes us so special, divinely providential (even Jesus came across problem after temptation after test), or a complete tool, Lord only knows. But while I sit here and examine our life, and those around us, two things are becoming frightfully clear.

First: The brave souls that have accepted that life is difficult, or "an endless series of problems" (Peck, The Road Less Traveled) have somehow learned the discipline of resolve. They have figured out what it means to admit, face, and tackle their problems head on; with ferociousness and perseverance. Resilient people have learned that meaning can be found in the midst of turmoil and hold on to that truth - all the while whispering "...a doxology in the darkness" (Manning; Ruthless Trust).

Remember when we read Brene Brown's Rising Strong book, when she wrote, "We need more people who are willing to demonstrate what it looks like to risk and endure failure, disappointment, and regret - people willing to feel their own hurt instead of working it out on other people, people willing to own their stories, live their values, and keep showing up".

Take a look at Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Elizabeth Elliot, Martin Luther King Jr., Horatio Spafford, Hannah Moore, Saint John of the Cross and Corrie ten Boom. They kept showing up. They are but a few examples of people who experienced legitimate suffering and horrific pain and overcame it. They all have left a lasting legacy for future generations on how to grow and love through processes in which they had every excuse not to. Dearest me, look to them for inspiration, for wisdom, or for some grit to get your through a problem with integrity and perseverance.

Second: The type of scared, victim-prone people (like us), who are experts at denying, escaping, and numbing our way to fantasy land is no way to live. We have this amazing tendency to avoid, manipulate, and run to never-never land; where we remain children for the rest of our incomplete and foolish lives. Actually Peck, again, says it way better than I ever could:

"This tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis for all human mental illness. Since most of us are mentally ill to a greater or lesser degree, lacking complete mental health. Some of us will go to quite extraordinary lengths to avoid our problems and the suffering they cause, proceeding far afield from all that is clearly good and sensible in order to try and find an easy way out, building the most elaborate fantasies in which to live, sometimes to the total exclusion of reality. In the succinctly elegant words of Carl Jung, 'Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering' " (italics are my own for you to pay attention to).

Jen, we have lived the second way for too long. And it is crap. The second way is HORSE MANURE. Dung. ****. No way around it).

Thankfully the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is our found meaning in the mess. Jesus, who came to die and save and redeem 'victim-prone' people (just like us) is a wonderful revelation. The fact that you have another day to work on your self-discipline, repentance, values, integrity, and admit the truth about who you are (and who you're not) is grace.

Life is difficult. You have problems. Some more serious than others. BUT we are learning to welcome them, look at them honestly, and figure them out. In Man's Search for Meaning, Victor E. Frankl wrote, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Or remember when Peck wrote, "It is through the pain of confronting and resolving problems that we learn. As Benjamin Franklin said, 'Those things that hurt, instruct.' It is for this reason that wise people learn not to dread but actually welcome problems and actually to welcome the pain of problems". 

Instead of Disney movies or perfectionism or safety, what if we were taught our children that life is painful and hard and it will entail a series of problems in which we need to learn how to overcome and find meaning in the process? We don't hear that one too often now, do we?

Think about it, what do we always go back to? I guess spending that money at that one store on Saturday wasn't a great idea. Or happy hour during that game, or going back to same thing, place, blah, blah, blah, freaking-blah. Pick one, it's all the same. The habit of Escapism = Disillusionment.

I'm not trying to be hard on you. I want you to get better and grow and change. I guess we can do what we normally do, OR we can spend some time in vulnerability and discomfort and decide to BE SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

Truth (in the form of love) is the best antidote I know of when it comes to neurosis. I've seen you lift up our sin, our pride, our shame and lay it all down at Jesus' feet. He washes us white as snow and whispers, "Get on up again, Jen. Try, try again". And our ragamuffin soul does. Thanking and praising the only One worthy to be praised.

We are the prodigal daughter 70 times over.
And we know all to well that Jesus forgives 70x7.


As I sit here in a Starbucks, reading my Bible, praying, writing a letter to myself, I can hear a lady behind me say to her neighbor, "if it feels good, do it". And I find the timing of me typing the words and her statement hilarious and sad. How very different the western world's perspective to Scripture is astonishing? Jesus calls us to die to ourselves and the stranger next to me proclaims JUST DO IT!  How we used to live that way, the wide road of selfishness. Our pleasure, our money, our passions, our luxury car, house on a hill, and fancy clothes. The million dollar, fantastic lie that shrivels souls down to the simpleness of the here and now. I wonder if the same heroes I mentioned above only focused on themselves and decided not to carry their cross? How vastly different would their stories have unfolded in the ripples of history if they decided to live for themselves?

How refreshing is the message of The Road Less Traveled:

"Let us inculcate in ourselves and in our children the means of achieving mental and spiritual health. By this I mean let us teach ourselves and our children the necessity for suffering and the value thereof, the need to face problems directly and to experience the pain involved... When we teach ourselves and our children discipline we are teaching them and ourselves how to suffer and also how to grow" -M. Scott Peck, MD 

I know my letter to you sounds very different than what you hear, read or see all around you. If we were to die tomorrow, I don't think it'll be the places we were never able to travel to, or an adventure unaccomplished. When we have the privilege to stand in front of our Maker, I'm pretty sure we'll regret the moments in which we could've been a better person, one that loved more, sacrificed more, served more or showed up more often than not. Because that is what we are called to do.

And lastly, don't get confused or discouraged by the progress you have made in this life when you do stumble and fall. To do so would mean defeat. And Jesus is constantly telling us to REMAIN, because He loves us. "As the Father has loved me, have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's command and remain in His love" John 15:9-10;NIV

Jesus loves you so much dearest me. Remember that truth first and foremost - all the time and every day. And then understand that life is difficult, but you can overcome it with love and meaning and discipline. You don't need to run away anymore. Stand for the Gospel in this life. Tackle issues. Teach your children truth and reach inside your mind, heart and soul for meaning in the midst of turmoil. Because you have a choice, dearest me. And we don't always make the right one. But everyday is second chance to do what is right and good and true. 

Every day holds within it a way. I pray and hope you will always choose redemption, love and service as the way forward.

Much love from your biggest critic,
Me


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2 Comments

Grace Ann - March 15th, 2016 at 3:29 PM
Good thoughts Jen
pamela moser - May 17th, 2016 at 12:35 PM
Jen, I'm so thankful for your words for so many reasons. God is good....I love you
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