This post was originally published on April 9, 2008.
My husband and I came across some old photos the other day. It was fun to take a trip down memory lane as we glanced through our pictures from a 2003 vacation, but I was surprisingly caught off guard when he made the passing comment, “We look a lot younger there!” We happened to be looking at a photo of me, and my initial reaction was to think:
I was younger there?
I did a quick double-take and noticed that I was indeed chronologically less old when I stood on that street in Prague. Yes, of course, what was I thinking? This photo was taken five years ago. I was not only younger, but also a few pounds lighter and more “carefree” with fewer responsibilities. And yet, the picture registered as if I were looking at a picture of an older, heavier, more burdened version of myself. How could it be, I wondered, that I could be five years older, fifteen pounds heavier, and have all the responsibilities of a wife and mother who just had her third baby in three years, yet look at this old picture and feel younger, lighter, and more free now than I did then? The one-word answer is this:
Here’s the longer answer:
Sometimes I come across old pictures that bring back memories of times of difficulty; usually, as was the case with our 2003 vacation photos, old pictures bring back memories of laughter and love and good friends and good times. But one universal feeling I have when I look at photos from more than a couple years ago, no matter whether they were taken in times of challenge or joy, is a sense that this picture was taken in the wilderness. It’s a sense that, regardless of the actual location of the photo, I was standing in a no-man’s-land of trouble and even danger; that, unbeknownst to me at the time, I was carrying burdens I didn’t need to carry and wandering directionless across rough terrain when there was a marked path waiting for me. To the girl looking back at the camera, I feel like calling out to her, “Hang in there!”
In the past couple of years since the beginning of my conversion I’ve gotten a couple more wrinkles, some new gray hairs, and am starting to feel some aches and pains that weren’t there before. Technically, I’ve gotten older. But I’ve also come to believe in God, and have begun to understand that my only purpose here is to know, love and serve him. And if to be younger is to be more full of life, more willing to love, less burdened by cares and worries, and somehow closer to the beginning of it all, then I am younger now than ever before.