Dear 20 year old Sara,
Hello from your now 30-year old self! You, my friend are on the cusp of your descent into oblivion. Congratulations! I know you never thought it would happen to you, but I do have some good news. Thanks to your commitment to sunscreen, pretty good haircare and your naturally high-pitched voice, most people assume you’re not a day over 25 at most.
There are some things you need to know. You did the right thing re-connecting with Pappaw in college. He inspired you to become an advocate for senior citizens who become neglected by their families, through his practice of visiting each nursing home in his town every month. You’re also really good at Rook now because of shadowing him on his monthly card playing circuit with the residents. You even dedicated your capstone paper to him.
Capstone? Oh, it’s the exit course offered by your seminary. Yeah – you went to seminary! Ha! Can you believe it? Oh and here’s the best part – wait for it – you’re a preacher! It’s true – come on, I can’t make this stuff up.
They made you take a preaching class in seminary and you were super anti it at first but five minutes into your first sermon, you were hooked. Now, you email your preaching professor asking for hookups on preaching gigs.
I know, right?
What else – oh yes -you are finally the proud owner of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Yes. If there were ever a good reason to turn 3o, that cookbook is it.
I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but you’re really confident now. It’s great. You wear what your want, say what you think and you’re actually really pretty.
You’re generally healthy except for you have gallstones but you’re having gallbladder surgery as soon as you get on the hospital insurance plan.
That’s right – you’re a chaplain resident at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, effective August 19th. You’re a real live hospital chaplain. Look at that – you did find a way to blend Social Work and your faith in a tangible way.
You need to know you don’t get here easily. You and God will have a falling out when you’re about 23. You’ll pitch a great big fit about being called to Mexico and not being able to go, and you’ll blame God for that, for your mom’s health problems and for your insecurities about how to do life.
But, you’ll meet a great group of people at North Atlanta Church of Christ, and you’ll get plugged into the Young Adult Small Group ministry. They’ll help you navigate it – and even facilitate your harsh words with your creator.
After that you’ll start to rebuild. You’ll quit your job as a social worker in the state foster care system and attend seminary. It’ll be isolating and lonely at first, because you’ll hear and experience things you’ve never heard or experienced.
As you gain confidence through your work in class and the friendships you make, you’ll learn to trust yourself and your instincts. You’ll do three internships, all of which will grow and stretch you. One of those will be a hospice chaplaincy internship.
You’ll come to a point where you’ll have to make a hard choice; and you’ll have a hard time separating from the church tradition that raised you, to pursue the call you feel God has given you to use your voice – but your relationships with family and friends will remain strong through everything.
And God will become more for you than what God is for you now at 20. Your God is a he and a she, a holy other and a traveling companion, and so many other things.
You’ll become captivated by process theology and by theories of personhood and embodiment, and an advocate for dementia’s voice in pastoral ministry.
So, perhaps instead of a descent into oblivion, you’re really embarking on a more fully realized culmination of your twenties, if that makes sense. Everything you wanted to be at 20 is coming around for you at 29 and 30. And it just keeps getting better.
So, keep up the passion for the things that captivate you now because it’ll fuel your passion for the things that will captivate you later on. Be gracious to yourself – you’re smarter than you think you are, and all of your friends really like you for who you are.
Study your Bible, journal every day (because you get really into that anyway) and don’t completely give up on music. Stay with piano and violin even if it’s just for fun. You don’t get Carnegie Hall, but you do get a pulpit every now and then, and the life sustaining joy you get each time you preach is worth a million Carnegie Halls.
And, happy birthday to you.
– Sara –