Young at Heart

matrioshka-maidanA friend recommended a book to me a few months ago, and I’ve read it twice already. It speaks to the foodie in me, and to the part of me that longs to be known for her hospitality and gracious spirit. Upon the second reading, something stood out to me and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. The author was visiting with her grandmother, and they were looking at old pictures together. Her grandmother told her that getting old is like carrying around all your old selves inside of you, like those Russian stacking dolls. With each passing year, you add another self, nestled in among the others. Looking at a picture of herself at 13, she can remember what it felt like to be that girl.

Lately, I’ve felt like a 13-year-old girl myself. But my 13-year-old self was full of insecurities and doubts. She relied solely on others to make herself feel worthy and loved. She was intimidated by the pretty girls, and hurt by the insensitive comments of the popular boys. She allowed their words and their summations of her value take root in her heart. She grew up in the church, and believed that Jesus loved her, but was pretty sure she was most loved when she was doing all the right things. When she read her bible, prayed for all those poor sinners at school, punched them in the arm when they cussed (that’s showing the love of Christ, right?), and looked like a good Christian, she knew she was okay. On the other hand, when she fought with her sister, wanted to skip church, didn’t read her bible for long stretches of time, and felt ugly and alone, she wondered where God had gone.

My heart aches for that girl. I want her to rest in the knowledge of Christ’s love for her. I want her to know that she can’t work hard enough or be good enough, and she isn’t expected to. It’s a lesson she needs to keep learning over and over, apparently. I want that girl to see Jesus and the gospel get bigger and bigger in her life. I want her to cling to the truth of who she is in Christ. I want her to know Jesus intimately, and to know that he not only died for her, but lived a perfect life for her. I want her to see God as her loving Father and Mother, not as a menacing figure standing in the corner with a big pencil, taking note of the bad things she’s doing and the good things she’s not doing. I want her to stop performing, and to stop needing affirmation from others. I want freedom for her.

So I guess I’m saying I want those things for me, because I’m learning that I am still that girl. She’s nestled in there. But Jesus redeemed her. He rescued her. Years from now, I hope the woman in her 40’s can identify less with the girl at 13. I know that God will be faithful to her, and I hope that she is able to find rest and freedom in Him.

Keely Steger