A few years ago, my great niece asked me one of the most delightful questions I have ever heard: “Aren’t you a little young to be 30?”
Yes, I clearly am.
Age is a funny thing. You see the pages of the calendar flip from year to year, yet you carry within you all the ages you ever were. You know you’re older but can still feel that you are in some way that person who roamed freely on your childhood streets. Or is still figuring out adulthood.
When I published my novel Life with Strings Attached, an elderly lady told me, “It reminded me of my childhood.” I had written it as a reinvention of my own childhood, but mine was several decades after hers. Yet perhaps we were both remembering that sense of optimism and openness in a life unconfined by choices – the choices that take you in one direction or another (closing other doors along the way).
As a matter of fact, that’s why I made my narrator Hannah 7 years old. I wanted to capture her at a time when everything was still possible, before she was aware of any limits. Of course, you learn as you grow older that some things aren’t possible anymore. For example, I used to hang upside down on monkey bars. I assure you, that’s not possible anymore.
Is it any wonder that Jesus said you have to come to faith like a little child? Maybe you’ve got to have a heart young enough to believe in possibility, especially if you’re going to believe a statement as big as this one: “With God all things are possible.”
Let’s just say – when you look around and see things you like or things you don’t like, your eyes will inform your thinking: this is bad, this is good. Your mind will tell you what must be done: this is right, this is wrong. Your hands and feet will give you a way to enter into a situation. And your heart will hold the hope of possibility that good things come from good things done.
That’s the benefit of age – not just having seen sweet things turn sour but having seen things that turned sour turn sweet again. Whether it takes a month or thirty years.
Have you said something like this recently: “I would have never believed that one day I would…” The trials of adulthood probably created the first part of that statement, even as a feeling of childlike wonder is restored at its ending.
I one day believed that I would write a novel, and I spent years – years! – in that effort. But now I don’t believe that I will write one again. Yet I still hold in my heart that hope and desire to move words around in hope and wonder. Just in a different format.
I am reminded of a passage where 7-year-old Hannah is standing on a stool in the bathroom, studying her reflection:
Nothing has ever been so fascinating to me as my own image in the mirror. As I looked straight into my eyes, my eyes looked straight back at me. I couldn’t get a full view of myself, only the front of my face. When I turned my face to the left, I could see part of one side. When I turned my face to the right, I could see part of another side. I could not see my whole self from any angle. I studied this reflection until my attention was diverted by motion.
“Daddy?” I called. He poked his head into the bathroom.
“What is it, Hannah?”
“Which is really me? The one in the mirror or the one looking at the one in the mirror?”
Daddy came up beside me and placed his reflection next to mine. We were a contrast in color. His dark brown hair, tanned skin, green eyes, sharp angles were not at all like the fair skin and roundness of my own reflection. My features were like my mother’s — blue eyes, full cheeks, three freckles on the nose, all surrounded by light brown hair.
“That’s the funny thing about mirrors,” Daddy said. “We think of mirrors as something that tells us how we look. They are in fact exactly how we do not look. They are actually the opposite of us.”
“You mean I don’t look like the girl in the mirror?”
“You look similar to the girl in the mirror; others might mistake you for the girl in the mirror. But if you study the whole thing carefully, you’ll see that your hair, in real life, is not parted on what you see as the left side, but is parted on what everybody else sees as the right side. That’s the strange thing about life. We see ourselves the opposite of how others see us.”
I looked at Daddy’s part in his hair in the mirror, then I turned back to look at his part in real life. It was the opposite.
“Then which one is me?” I asked again.
“You’re the one that’s always you on the inside,” he said. “That sweet little face on the outside will change. But what happens on the inside, as you grow in your mind and in your heart, will help you be who you truly are, and eventually that’s what everyone else will see.”
“Then what are mirrors for?” I asked.
“To make sure we don’t have spinach between our teeth.”
“But I don’t like spinach,” I protested.
“Then I recommend that you not keep it between your teeth.”
You’re the one that’s always you on the inside. Whatever age or stage you find yourself, enjoy your magnificent journey.
– Minnie Lamberth
The Magnificent Journey
Vol. 2, Issue 3