You're going to live to 40. Seriously -- in October, 2009. And your parents will still be alive, too. And your brother. All that: Wonderful, sweet news.
Bad news: Rusty doesn't make it. He dies after you leave for college. And you weren't crushed to see him go, since he had lost all his fur and was kinda grossing everybody out.
About college -- more good news: You totally go to college. The state decides you are, officially, "handicapped", and pays for the whole thing. Your eye problems finally pay off, big-time.
More good news: You have two very, very awesome children.
Even better news: You're married.
Even better-than-better news: That means you got to kiss a girl.
...a total babe, too. I realize, given your, ah -- awkwardness, let's say -- around girls, this is beyond imagining. But it happens, honest. God answers your prayer. The profile exists: A hot girl who likes awkward guys.
Oh, yeah -- on the "God" thing: You still think He exists. More than ever, really. This is for a couple reasons: The darkness in the world, as you've always been able to perceive it, seems only answered by Jesus. You become fascinated by him.
And, too, you look into the alternatives to Jesus. And you find them sadly wanting. As frustrated as you become with Christian CultureTM, you become that much more relieved to find out that if you've seen Jesus? -- well, that's what God is like. And he's really, really good.
The Cardinals win the Series again! -- in 2006. I know. It's a long way off. The Fighting Illini never really win anything. Oh yeah -- the Berlin Wall falls down. There's that.
So you turn forty, and please believe me: You're not going to believe how blessed you are. The highlights: Your wife, of course, and children, but your biggest fantasy comes true: You get to travel the world, to places you can't imagine, and see what love is. I know, that's just a Foreigner song to you right now.
Oh -- good news: U2 is STILL together. And they're still selling places out. They learn to play their instruments better and stuff. You're going to love their next album, by the way.
You pick up guitar and join your own band. The band isn't bad at all. You start to take off, but don't pursue it, because when you're 23, you think you're way too old for rock and roll. You've always thought you were too old for everything.
Now, well, you kinda are.
You now have a surfboard in your garage. Make no mistake ("Make no mistake" becomes a cliche, by the way. You know "Iraq"? We invade it a couple times, and -- never mind.) anyway, you can't surf very well, but you try. I realize this makes no sense to a boy in Illinois, but it will.
By the way: Jesus didn't come back. That's a relief to you, now, of course, since you wanted to -- you know -- be married first. So that works out.
Dear Brant at 16: You're not a loser. You won't believe this, I know. But you're not. Yes, you're naturally a pessimist, and you will always see absurdity wherever it lay. But things get better. Your next family? It stays together. You laugh together, you sing, you laugh some more, your wife lets you smooch her, and while you're typing this, your boy (he's taller than you!) plays violin behind you.
You don't starve to death. Nobody kills you. You don't die in an accident. You get a job. You have friends, here and there. You're not exposed as a complete fraud. Things are okay.
Turns out, you don't fail at everything. You fail at some things, but most "things" become a lot more laughable. Seriously -- life is funnier all the time. All that stuff you already know, deep down, is darkly odd about your life? It's downright hilarious, later. I know you won't, but you can afford to lighten up a bit.
You know how you want to be significant, more than anything? You kinda let that go. Not all the way, but a lot, and man, it makes life a lot better.
And the stuff you're ashamed of, that stuff at 16, that only I know about...? God uses you anyway. Somehow. You won't figure it out, but he does. He loves you, in the midst of it.
That C.S. Lewis book has it right, about the lion: He really IS good. You'll read that book again, and the next time, you'll smile, because it will ring true.
People always come up to me all the time on the street, and they're all like, "What up", and I'm all cool like that, and say, "What up", and then they're like, "Hey, we all want to know: Where was your first job?"
People always ask me that, on the streets.
And then I show them this picture. This is The Golden Prairie News in Assumption, Illinois. I worked for the newspaper.
I got paid $4 a week. My job: Set stuff on fire in that burning barrel you see there to the left.
I took this picture when I was back this summer. They're still burning stuff in there, but I guess they found somebody else for that.
15...and so on that day the disciples looked about, and saw the five thousand hungry people gathered there around them. They knew they were told to feed them, and wondered aloud, "How will we feed these many thousands?"
16They hoped for a miracle, and lo, they received one, having been given enough to feed everyone, and still more! 17They counted twelve basketfuls beyond what they would need to care for everyone!
"We have been given much!" they said, and the crowd cheered.
18But the disciples had a lot of overhead for their operations. They used what they had to pay for that. Then, they asked, "Okay, what do we have left?" and it was only five loaves and two fish.
19Yeah, it was a bummer, 20but they got some cool pictures of them giving the bread and fish to a couple people and it made for a pretty awesome slide show.
Because there's nothing more fun than forcing people to look at your own photo albums, here's an online version.
I can't force you to look at it. I can't even force myself to think you'd want to. But here it is.
Oh, the places you'll go!