Today I turn 22. 21 was a hard year. It didn’t pull any punches. 22 has me walking in with my fists covering my eyes, trying not to make my flinching seem so obvious.
Unlike other birthdays, this one feels especially weighty. I used to cringe when people would ask me on my birthday, “So, how does it feel to be __ years old?” because it always felt exactly the same as being the age I was the day before. Nothing felt changed. This year though, I feel changed, different, older, in some good ways and some bad ways.
21 stands behind me with death and loss and pain and sadness, and this new year stands in front of me with newness and life and heartache and probably more pain because pain is constant, isn’t it? I wish I knew how to walk into the year confidently, but I’m finding myself wanting to curl up into a tiny ball and stay right where I am.
I feel older, yes. I feel more equipped to love others well and to stand in hard places where I wouldn’t have been comfortable standing a year ago. I feel too old to settle for easy answers and trite platitudes as a response to pain, though I am too young still to hear those trite platitudes and automatically respond with grace instead of anger. I feel old enough to know how much is not black-and-white, how much our intentions matter and how many different ways our words can be twisted and misunderstood. I feel weariness in my soul that seems like an older kind of weariness, the kind that starts to settle into a heart as a person experiences more of the world’s pain and more of the comfort that can only come from the Lord.
At the same time, I feel too young to do much of what 22 will require of me. I feel much too young to nurture and care for another human being. I feel much too young to faithfully care for my home and my husband. I feel much too young to respond to questions quickly and gracefully, pointing the person to Christ instead of trying to point them to myself.
I feel too old and too young to be 22, and if we’re being really honest, that angst probably adds another reason why I’m too young, too insecure, too unprepared.
And yet I am known, at 21 and 22, by the God who knows when I sit down and when I rise up, knows when I am feeling too young and too old, knows when I am unprepared and scared, knows when I am too sure of myself and not leaning in closely enough to him.
The Psalmist writes,
“You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me…”
This is where I find myself, somehow both unsure and sure at the same time, and hemmed in, behind and before, by a Father who knows and cares for me deeply and who has laid his hand upon me and this year of being 22.