"The problem with aging has nothing to do with merely 'getting old'. The problem is the curse of yesterday's youthfulness."
"How do you mean?" he asked. "I'm assuming you're not talking about physical appearance."
"No." Her gaze shifted to the open window, eyes soaking in the innocent blue of the sky as memories raced around in her mind; striving to be articulated. "You can never escape the person you were, at any point in time." she said finally. "No matter how old you get, you can never be free from the immaturity of who you have been, or the foolishness of those former decisions. Even if you recognize the mistakes you make or learn the lessons on the morrow, you still cannot escape your immaturity of today. The folly is always as fresh as yesterday."
He pondered this for a moment before replying. "Can you give me an example?"
She turned then, eyes blazing with frustration. "I remember being a three-year-old and drawing on my bedroom wall with a crayon. At ten I dressed up and spouted ridiculous nonsense when the home video camera was pointed my way. When I was thirteen, I had a new obsession every month that was just as fruitless as the last. Sixteen brings memories of the folly of a crush on some person or fictional character. Just before becoming an adult, I understood the futility of trust in friends by experiencing hurtful betrayal. After that I fell deeply in love with someone who eventually married another, and who never even knew I existed. I imagined ridiculous things, from living in an enchanted castle as a child, to the mythical existence of people who love always without prejudice. I dreamed dreams, only to find them impossible. I hoped hopes, and they didn't measure up. I have looked up to people who failed me. I have believed in lies. I have said things I regretted, hurt the ones I love, made myself look foolish, given myself to worthless things. . . yet—yet every day I get older. . . and instead of discovering wisdom, I discover my immaturity of the previous day. It's. . . inescapable."
"Do you view maturity as something we can attain by years?"
"Is it not? Or at least, shouldn't it be?"
Rubbing his chin, he answered thoughtfully, "It depends. I think maturity is more than just becoming immune to mistakes so that you never need acknowledge them. A wise person. . . well, put it this way: wisdom never arrives, but it always looks back with grace and forward with hope."
Her eyes reflected a sort of despair at his words. "Am I to be forever haunted by the people I've been?"
"You'll never be free of them, if that's what you're asking." Pausing for deep breath, he continued. "It . . . it is a frightening thought—I own—that we can only ever be the sum total of our experiences, with all the people we have ever been staring back at us over the years we have lived. It's like. . . the cloud of witnesses we are surrounded by are all the people we failed to be; hundreds of us's, hoping against hope that we turn out better than our varying stages of immaturity dreamed we would."
Here she let out a deep, wounded sigh; tearful gaze meeting his thoughtful stare across the room. Darling little bird, his heart whispered. Don't you see you're trying to fly free of your feathers?
Moving across the room to where she was seated, he dropped to his knees on the carpet and reached for her clenched fists held tightly in her lap. "These hands," he said, gently unfolding them, "have a choice of what to hold. They can hold resentment and regret for past mistakes,"—he turned over one hand—"or grace and hope for the future," he said, turning over the other.
Her downcast eyes looked thoughtful as he went on. "No one can change their past, though all of us would try in a heartbeat if given the chance. What if instead you saw all your past selves not as failures throwing stones, but as milestones cheering for future victory? What if. . . what if you recognized that the One who created you—He who is outside time—loved every single you that ever was, just the way you were? Including yesterday's you?"
A tear splashed onto his hand, and she wiped it off absentmindedly with her finger, pondering his words. "How do I see with those eyes?" she whispered hoarsely.
He smiled, reaching up to tenderly thumb away another tear rolling down her face. "Look up, dear one. Look into His face and see your reflection in the eyes of Love. Put your face into His glorious sunlight and the shadows will fall far behind you. As you hold fast to hope, regret will slip through your grip into hands bigger than your own. Someday you will learn to love the journey that you are on, and you'll be better able to love your past selves when you discover them in the faces of people around you."
Raising her head, she nodded; freedom flooding her smile. Then, as a flicker crossed her face, "But what of tomorrow." she said gravely, "when I wake in the morning. . . what if, with fresh hindsight, I regret my words of today? What then?"
He squeezed her hands. "He will give even more grace in exchange. And besides," his smile widened to a grin. "It will give me opportunity to love one of my past selves in you."
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. - 2 Cor. 5:17