March 16, 2017
Dear Hyde Park Family,
Part of the privilege of having a forum like the Midweek Message is that I get to share whatever is on my mind with a wonderful readership like you. Often the content is spiritual, other times social commentary, and other times just random musings.
Today it is personal. Because in two days, my older daughter turns sixteen.
You can’t tell by reading this, but it took several minutes of staring at that last sentence before I gathered enough steam to keep writing. The best I can do is try to gather my thoughts in the form of a letter, which I have already shared with her, in the hopes that it might be meaningful to you and the people you love.
In just a few days, you will be passing what may feel like a major milestone in your life. At the same time, it will seem like just any other day and you may not feel qualitatively different once your birthday passes. Some cultures, after all, prefer to emphasize other birthdays, like the Quinceanera for 15-year old girls in Latin Americas, or the Debut for 18-year old girls in the Philippines. But I get it: sixteen is the year you can get your driver’s permit and learn to drive on your own. That feels like it changes everything!
I prefer to see your sixteenth birthday as one of many critical pivot points you will face throughout your life. This is the central year of your teenage years. You are now just as close to being a legal adult as you are removed from adolescence. You are just a few months from being half-way through high school with graduation and (gulp) college just around the corner.
In other words, your life is at a turning point. As much as you still need the care and concern of your parents, you are starting to exercise your own beautiful sense of independence and critical thinking. As much as you are still responsible to the structures and routines of institutionalized education, you are starting to develop the passions and interests that will dictate your career path and guide you into the future. And as much as you are part of a wide network of family and friends who love and support you, you are also gaining the courage to venture into the world and make a name for yourself all on your own.
This is a pivotal moment. And it won’t be the last one.
You will discover that life is filled with moments like these. Some of the choices that you make along the way will seem small, but will have major consequences down the road. Others might seem major at the time, but the impact will not be as big as you thought. That’s the way life often is. We do the best we can when we are called to make decisions, not knowing what the significance or outcome will be. Just like your sixteenth birthday, sometimes the pivotal moments will feel just like any other, and sometimes they’ll seem much more momentous.
This is what makes life so interesting, and what makes living into a bright unknown future like yours so exciting. But here’s the one thing I can say for sure: you have a past that will ground you well. You are part of a family that loves you. Your mom and dad and your sister are so terribly proud of you. You have grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and a wider family that will be your constant support. And you are part of a Christian faith that links you to a grand tradition of wisdom, joy and hope, even when times get tough.
In fact, it is your connection to Christ and your part of God’s family that will be among your life’s most important resources. A few years ago, on a bright Sunday morning, you stood before a United Methodist church family for your Confirmation. It may have felt in some ways like any other worship service. But it was another one of those pivotal moments, for you said yes to Jesus, and that changed everything. Staying true to that commitment will be the guiding principle that shapes your life forever.
So, happy birthday, sweet sixteen-year old. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist