Growing up is a process. It doesn’t end when one’s childhood closes, those tender formative years. I’m sixty-one years old as I write, and I continue to grow into a woman; the woman God meant when he meant me.
This morning I saw a cardinal. Its bright ruby red form landed on a tree before me and I gasped aloud at its beauty. I was instantly taken back to my childhood remembering a moment when I was standing by a window next to my mother as together we watched a cardinal land on a tree. It was a white winter world, and the beauty of its deep hue was a stark and lovely contrast to the snow-covered landscape.
My memory engaged and lifted me back to other sweet moments of my childhood. The blue and white winter jacket that I loved. The fragrance of the Kansas air. The rolling thunder of the wild and dark cloud filled sky. The feel of the spring wind. Walking to school up the broken cement sidewalk from my house to the top of the hill where my elementary school was. Sequoia Elementary. Tomahawk Road. Tornado warnings. Those fabulous bright teal pants with the big bold yellow flowers. The smell the autumn leaves released when I stomped through them. The wonder I sometimes felt. The loneliness I felt as well.
The tears came. So did the thankfulness. And so did the invitation of Jesus to welcome that young girl back into my heart. I need her wonder. I need her freedom. I need her delight in the simple beauty of nature. I need her to come home to my heart where Jesus dwells.
Other memories flooded my mind. Sweet memories of my father. Tender memories.
My father died when I was 23 years old from cancer. Our relationship by then was loving, encouraging, healed from the anger of my younger years. He blessed and accepted who I was; even my faith as I departed from the Catholic church that was so dear to him.
My father loved me. In my later years, I had questioned that. In my 30’s God invited me to take a closer look at my life as a child and a teenager. As I said “yes”, he pulled back the curtain to reveal truths I had covered up. Loneliness. Pain. Uncertainty. Fear. Loss. My parents were far from perfect and I needed to face that truth and the damage done to my soul. I did. I became very angry. And then, I forgave them.
In the years since, God has been revealing my story to me in various hues and colors, replacing the black and white naming of “good” and “bad”. With each passing year, I begin to see more clearly. You see, love does cover a multitude of sins and the truth is, I was deeply loved. I was deeply loved by hurting parents to the best of their capacity to love. Was it enough? Often, no. Was it enough in the end? Yes.
The lack, the pain, the sorrow drove me to dark places but ultimately, by the mercy of God, it drove me to Jesus. And now, I am reclaiming the joys of my childhood as God reframes the story of my life to embrace the goodness while I grieve the losses.
Not everyone has a story like mine – mine that holds so much goodness in my childhood. But I believe everyone has a story of God’s pursuit of their hearts and holds hidden treasure and beauty that he’d like to reveal.
I am growing older but I am also growing up – embracing all of me, even the young parts. So yes, I am growing older, but I am growing younger too.