I feel so tender toward that little girl and young woman that I used to be. There was a time, not so many years ago, that memories of my childhood through my twenties made me flush with confusion, anger and regret. I was hard on that younger self. Growing older and deeper in love with God gives such glorious perspective.
If only I could go back and reassure myself then with what I know now….
My parents divorced before this wee version of me was six. Lives turned topsy-turvy as Mommy sorted out how to care for four little children, and Daddy disappeared. She did take care of these little ones, and that was a glimpse for this mini-me of what I know now. God reached out to this little girl through strangers. Neighbors invited us to church, and there we learned of a good God who loved us and would never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5). I gradually trusted this Father God.
To that high-school girl – I would say, “Look at yourself through God’s eyes, Girl. See how gifted and beautiful you really are. You matter to God, and that is all that really matters.” That teen-aged version of me had the usual adolescent angst and then some. She worked so hard to please others and sought approval from her peers, approval that would never be satisfied. Those years started a pendulum swinging between the church which she loved and the world where she wanted to be loved. I want to wrap my arms around that bewildered teenaged me and plant into her heart the sweet truth of her identity in Christ. Somehow she [I] missed that message in those years…of who we are in Christ – His child, a new creation, chosen, holy, blameless, loved, and complete in Him (John 12; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:4).
To that young woman in her twenties – I would say, “You don’t have to make things happen. See how God has already worked…trust yourself into His hands. He’s working everything out” (Romans 8:28). That 20-something me had done well academically and was situated in a challenging and fascinating job. Life was still a bit dizzying because, not having had this talk yet (or the one I would give my teenaged self), she was still of a mind that she was messed up somehow. Maybe it was the still present father wound, or the disappointments of her teen years, but she struggled with enormous self-doubt and deep guilt. She believed one day she would be “exposed” and everyone would see that she didn’t know enough, wasn’t good enough, somehow had faked her way through life. I remember vividly the strain of these years on that younger me. I am thankful for Godly women, in those days, who loved that younger me – so driven, restless, and searching. It took some convincing, but thanks to their not giving up on her, and the Holy Spirit stirring her heart, she [I] took hold of the God who had never let go all those years.
Those early years of pain, loss, and confusion seem long ago now. Looking back, though, I find God there with that younger me. ..so gentle and patient. I am not able to speak to that younger self, but there are younger ones in my life today that remind me of her. Listening, I speak to them.