Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)
Once upon a time, a very, very long time ago I looked like this. Pre-kids, pre-husband, pre-going back to school full time and working part time, pre-accounting job. I could hike up mountains, climb over rocks, and spend the day on the trail. It was glorious. It was also glorious to have the body of an active twenty-something. Now I have the body of about two twenty-somethings.
Somehow in the midst of all of the schooling, the working, the getting married and the having children I lost that body and I would like it back, or at least a reasonable facsimile. But the numbers on the scale creep ever upward despite my efforts and I hide from the camera to avoid documentation of my current state.
Will I ever be what I once was? I will never be twenty again. I can’t undo the changes of carrying two children in my body. I can’t erase the (blessedly few) wrinkles that time has etched on my face. There’s sagging and stretching going on all over this body and no matter how successful I may end up being at losing weight I will never be what I once was.
But look a little further into the picture, behind the eyes. See the girl-woman that inhabited that body. See loneliness, confusion, self-loathing, darkness, depression, uncertainty. Read the journals from those years. What was on the outside looked fine, but the inside was a mess.
How I longed to feel whole, to feel loved, to feel that I was more than some cosmic mistake, some joke played at my expense. I ached with all of the words left unsaid, with all of the times I had watched friendship, love, trust slip through my fingers and disappear. Awkward, shy, socially inept, quiet; there are so many words I could use to describe what I was.
The picture changes though. Grace moved in. The corners of my heart began to slowly fill with God-love. Light burned away the darkness. The years flick by like frames of an old movie and even as I see my body changing and growing I see my soul changing as well, being reshaped, remade into the image of the God who loves me more than I could have ever known.
Oh, how I long to turn back time. Not to have the body and the youth, but to be able to take that face in my hands, look into those eyes and say “You ARE loved, you WILL be changed. Be patient, dear one. There is a love that is beyond all human love you know, a love that does not use and discard, a love that holds no expectations, a love that sees you as beautiful even when you don’t see it yourself.” I ache for the pain of things to come, of postpartum struggles, of the child who is not what I dreamed of but who is exactly the child I needed in order to learn grace. I ache for difficult moves and the search for a church home and the years of no friends. But there in the middle of it all, there was grace.
Grace changed me. God changed me. He knows me and loves me with all my baggage, all my mistakes, all my longings.