I've often wondered if I've changed much as I've aged. In some ways I feel exactly the same as I did when I was 18 or 25 or 35. In fact, I've often said I feel like I've always been exactly the same person, inside and out. The same size even. When I was a very small child, I had to stand on a stool to wash dishes in our kitchen. And this is telling about my mother. My older brother and I were given that chore, even when we were so young we had to stand on such stools. He'd wash and I'd dry, or visa versa (I loved washing because of all the suds and my clean, wrinkly hands) when I was no more than five or six. If you think I'm exaggerating, you should call my aunt and ask her. She remembers visiting our home in Michigan and practically having to sit on her hands when my mom said it was our job.
My point, though, is that I don't remember growing tall enough to stop needing the stool. I don't remember when I could reach the bathroom sink myself. Inside my size hadn't seemed to change. Or, more precisely, my perception of my size hadn't.
The same is true about my emotional, mental and spiritual size and shape. When I was fourteen and a brand new, with the slick dew of new birth wet behind my surrender, I thought I was mature and wise and knew enough that I could tell my parents and thing or two (and did tell them, sorry to say). When I was eighteen, with my tassel just tossed from one side to the other, my high school diploma in hand, I became a Young Life leader to high school girls, some of whom were older than me, and I was sure I was a sage, for all that most of them had seen more of life, and plenty more of relationships than I'd even dreamed. And when I was 25. Well, when I was 25...
Last night I got an email from a dear friend who'd found a letter I'd written her. Written when I was 25. It said...well, let me speak for myself:
"You know, I'm sick to death of everyone asking what I'm going to be when I grow up. "You're 25 years old, when are you going to settle down and do something?" Is that the meaning of life? To produce, to be "something," to accumulate? I despise that. I will not get on that treadmill, at least not until it stops looking like one to me. How futile and worthless it is. I just want to be who I am. I'm not going to prove my value through some profession imposed on me by standards other than my own. It's a travesty of truth, and I refuse to live that way. I like life. My own particularly. I choose to read, write, travel, enjoy it. "
I was surprised when I read this last night. Surprised not because of how foreign it sounded, but because of how like me it does. Like I could have written it yesterday. When I look back I imagine that I had grandiose plans and expectations that were bigger than anything God meant my life to be. But I didn't. Even then I knew that my life was meant to be lived on a small scale. That an organic life doesn't have to do with production or title or accomplishment, but simply being. I don't say it here, but it's all implied (because I know this as I breathe, because I know well who I was!) that Christ was my own standard.
Many times over the long years that I've been a Christian, I've prayed the small prayer prayed by the father in the gospel, "I believe, help Thou my unbelief." This prayer in my life has often (usually?!) been a directed litany. Early, it centered on boys, or a specific boy (at different times), as I asked God to requite my rather strong feelings. Most of the time those prayers were not answered. Or at least, that is how it seemed at the time because they were manipulative and full of personal pleas and bargains and very little of the small faith the prayer claims. However, as I look back, I see that God was--all along--answering that heartfelt, earnest prayer as it was fundamentally intended. My faith IN HIM was increased. That is, my faith that He would do with me and my life as He intended, and make ME be who He intended me to be, in spite of what I thought I wanted myself. Perhaps such intensely honest prayer was all I could manage then. But He knew what it meant and used it. He used it.
Just as He took the words of this letter as they were intended, as the cry of my true heart, the essential me saying, "This is REALLY who I am," and has allowed a life to equal with such luxury. I am spoiled by my life, and am well aware of it. Yes, God allowed me pain and suffering, but in part, so that I could be so spoiled. Isn't that amazing? So that I could have this unbelievable gift of this life. THIS life. The life I imagined and dreamed and wanted when I was only 25.
Now my prayer is that in this small, luxury of a life, that He is glorified in it, that I do not--for a single moment--take it (or the Beve, of course!) for granted. Yes, glorify Yourself in me.
How did you (or do you, if you're young and only now dreaming!) imagine your life? Dare to dream and He will--I promise you, He will--do it. And may He be glorified in it!