That’s the question I heard someone ask my friend the other day when I was mistaken for her mother. Not in the “her-mother-and-I-look-a-lot-alike-and-someone-actually-thought-I-was-that-person” type way; it was in the “strangers-who-don’t-know-us-from-Adam-saw-us-together-and-assumed-I-was-my-friend’s-mother” type way. To be clear, when the inquisitor saw us together, she assumed I was old enough to have birthed my 37-year-old friend.
I wept a thousand invisible tears. I also punched a thousand invisible punches, directed squarely at the offender’s face (in the name of Jesus, of course).
It didn’t help that this happened at my local nail salon just two minutes after we had walked in the door. I had to sit through an entire pedicure with “IS THAT YOUR MOM” clipping my cuticles and looking disgusted at the thickness of my heel callouses. She didn’t even give me a good foot massage! #FirstWorldProblems
I don’t consider myself a proud person. I’m generally pretty realistic about the state of me, and I’ll be the first to say I’m not quite the fine physical specimen I once was. Early-twenties me and mid-thirties me are two very different people on so many levels. Ten-plus years and fifty pounds have a real way of changing a person.
Early-twenties me would have taken “IS THAT YOUR MOM’s” words like a dagger to my heart, and I would have chewed on them and lost sleep over them, convinced that she was right, that I was indeed like twenty miles of used-up rough road. Mid-thirties me was able to suppress the urge to own her words as truth, and an hour later I really was okay.
Ok, I’m still a little sore at “IS THAT YOUR MOM.” But not sore enough to lose sleep over it.
The truth is, I wouldn’t go back to my younger years if you paid me. There’s no amount of money in the world that would be worth becoming that version of myself again.
Early-twenties me was painfully insecure. I was physically at my best and emotionally at my worst. I was successful. Talented. Noticed. And I was miserable.
It’s funny how the achievements that are celebrated by the world are never quite enough to meet that deep-seated need each of us has to be fully loved and fully known, just as we are. In my early twenties, I didn’t get it; now I understand it more deeply every day.
Early-twenties me was sure that if I was just a little prettier, a little skinnier, a little more successful, then I’d have arrived. I’d feel worthy. I’d make a real impact on the kingdom of God, because that’s what God wants—pretty, skinny, successful people who make Him look good.
Mid-thirties me is now more convinced than ever that physical beauty and worldly success are two of Satan’s easiest strongholds to breach as he attempts to destroy the hearts, integrity, and lives of God’s people. That’s not to say a person can’t be attractive or successful and be a warrior for Christ; it’s simply to say that those blessed with either must intentionally guard themselves against the enemy perverting what God intended for good.
Early-twenties me was sure I hadn’t done quite enough to earn God’s complete love for me. Did I trust Him? Did I walk with Him and believe that He loved me? Yes. Did I believe that I was fully loved by Him, not because of my achievements or my ministry, but simply because I was HIS? No, I really didn’t.
Mid-thirties me understands it on a soul level, as deeply as I possibly can without seeing Him face to face. I am so comfortable in my own skin it’s not even funny. I’m okay with failing, and I’m okay with my cellulite and crow’s feet and gray hairs. I’m okay. And I’m free.
I’m okay with knowing that no matter what I strive for it will never be enough, because nothing I could do could earn me God’s favor or affection. If not for Jesus, I’d be in an eternal world of hurt, and I see that and own that and relish in the fact that I am not enough.
It’s so freeing to not be enough.
Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. 1 JOHN 2:15–17 (MSG)
You might be wondering what changed. What happened to me that would transform early-twenties me into mid-thirties me so radically?
There are two answers to your question: Jesus and my children.
Heart change only happens because of Jesus, and He saw fit to use motherhood to change me like no other thing ever could.
I didn’t fully understand loving another, no matter his failings or flaws, until I had children. I couldn’t fathom how it was possible to love someone who could do nothing for you, just because she is yours. It was impossible for me to comprehend how to love a person unconditionally, even when he disrespects and dishonors you. I didn’t get it…until I had kids.
And so I changed.
I like me so much more now.
So what if I look like I could be my friend’s mom? Is that the worst thing in the world? (I’m fighting the urge to type “yes” right now.)