I suspect it is a nearly universal phenomenon—we look in the mirror and wonder what happened. We are no longer what we once were. Worse still, we don’t recognize ourselves in what we have become. When we are young, we look upon adults with wonder. They seem to us, as children, like a different order of being. They go to bed when they wish. They need not ask permission before eating a cookie, or three. They are utterly uninterested in the important things—baseball cards, breakfast cereal, and Saturday-morning cartoons.
I just assumed that the transformation would not just be sudden, but unmistakable, that there was some switch that at some point would be flipped and I would turn into one of these strange creatures. Before I knew it, I was looking at an old man in the mirror, but somehow the switch never got flipped.
It’s true enough that I went through sundry rites of passage. I wed a wife, took a mortgage, got an education, and worked a job. But inside, I’m still the same kid. I want to make wise decisions. I desire to handle my responsibilities. I seek to be mature in the faith. I have faced adult-sized challenges along the way and have been changed by His grace, but I am what I am.
What I have come to understand, however, is that the process of maturation not only has no switch, but it runs both ways. I need not only to grow older in the faith, but to grow younger as well. Indeed, the best sign that I am in fact growing older is that I am growing younger.
Jesus said that unless I become like a child, I will not enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 18:3). The spiritually mature thing to do is to believe my elder Brother. My dear wife, during her battle with leukemia, came to understand this well. While the illness and its treatment ravaged her body, she did not so much wither away as begin to blossom. She was leaving the Shadowlands, on the road to the mountain of the brightness of life. Her life was not a long journey toward death—her death was a long journey toward life. When she crossed through the veil, even as she awaits the resurrection, she became what she is now—young and carefree. No more surgeries. No more chemo. No more radiation. No more tubes and masks and hospital gowns. Young as she had never been before, young like Eve on her first day.
And we, if we are in Christ, will one day be the same. When I was a child, I did not worry about what I would eat. I went to bed every night quite confident that my parents would be able to provide for my meals. I did not worry about what I would wear (though, given that I grew up in the ’70s, perhaps I should have) but woke every morning confident that my parents would be able to provide clothes. When I took on adult responsibilities, when I established my own home and was blessed with my own children to feed and clothe, I did not cease to be a child. By His grace, I have a heavenly Father. And He is fabulously wealthy, owning not just the cattle on a thousand hills but the hills themselves.