I was looking at some old photos from my college years today… so many years have passed from the moments captured in time by a photograph. If I look too long at the faces, it feels like a million lifetimes ago.
When I study these pictures, I have a violent urge to pick up and shake the 115 pound self-conscious girl who thought she was fat. I want to scream at her through the past and tell her that she was perfect – just the way she was. I want to reach through the image, hold her face in my hands, and tell her not to make decisions based on how a boy makes her feel… or doesn’t make her feel. I want to tell her not to waste her time, energy, and love on someone who doesn’t see her value, because she is worth more. I want to tell her that her Father sees the ache. I want to tell her that it wasn’t her fault that she wasn’t there that day, to stop blaming herself for a tragic death that was out of her control. I want to cry with my 21 year-old self and let her know it’s okay to let go. I want to tell her that joy comes when she learns the fine art of forgiving… and that it might be herself that she needs to forgive. I want to look into her eyes and tell her that life doesn’t get easier but she will get stronger. I want to tell her to stop hauling the world around on her shoulders. If I could go back in time, I would push the world away, let it roll down her back and fall through time and space, and then whisper in her ear that she will live more fully without the weight of worry. I want to encourage her to relish the moments lived in the thin places because that’s where she will learn who she is meant to be. I want to tell her to keep her eyes fixed on Him because above all, that is where she will find the grace and restoration her heart so desperately desires.
I can’t change the past, but maybe I can affect the future of the little girls that I am raising. I think of their impressionable hearts and how crucial these young years are for them. I realize why I tell my girls that they are worth more than all the riches in the world to the God of the universe and that their self-worth should be found in Him and Him alone. I make a point to try to tell them everyday that no matter what mistakes they make, I will always love them – fully and completely, but that God loves them even more than they can comprehend. I want them to feel beautiful on the inside and out simply because He created them exactly the way they are supposed to be. He pursues them daily and woos them to his heart. A boy will never be able to fill that space in their heart. A college degree from the best college won’t fill it. That perfect career that provides the lifestyle they want can’t do it, either. Friends can’t do it. Going to church or having a religion definitely won’t do it. A relationship with Jesus is the only thing that will fill the gaping hole in their heart. I hope they fill it with him so fully that almost nothing else will fit by the time they are teenagers. A mommy can dream… and pray.
I hope the words will sink in, take root in their hearts, and grow so large that truth will overshadow any lie. If one day they hear words that have the potential to cause deep wounds, I pray that they will recognize them for what they truly are – blatant lies. I don’t want them to allow others to write painful chapters in their story. Wounds cannot be avoided, but my fervent prayer for my girls is that the truth they are learning now as little girls will help them years later when they are faced with life changing decisions. One day they may find themselves in a college dorm with friends or on a trip abroad, a thousand miles away from home… and maybe someone will take a picture. When they look at that picture with their children 20 years later, I would love for them to be able to look back without regret. I know sometimes the only way we can learn is if we make mistakes, experience the heartache, and walk around in the pain. But for their sake, I hope they learn the lesson before the pictures become reminders of hurt. If (when) they face loss, guilt, or broken hearts – I pray that the same peace that found me will heal and renew their spirit and they will learn what they need to from the suffering and be able to move on… with wisdom safely hidden in their back pocket.