I’ve been planning to write a blog entitled “If I Knew Then What I Know Now.” And so over Christmas break, I thought about it. Although there are indeed some things that I have learned and that I do better now that I am older, the very startling realization that I came to in all my thinking is that a better title, in a way, for this blog might be, “If I Knew Now What I Knew Then”!
Why do I say that? Let me give you some examples. When I was younger there were some very hard times, and although I can honestly tell you that having kids with special needs is something I would never change and has been one of the pinnacle blessings of my life, it did come with hard times.
For example, when our second special needs child was born, there were people, even relatives, who made it clear to me that this recurring problem was somehow my fault. It was “the way I carried the child” (in pregnancy) and other such offensive and completely inaccurate comments or insinuations. I quietly nodded my head and ignored the comments, and I have thought in my older years that I should have told these people off!
But really? Is that a better choice? No, I made the better choice when I was young. Yes, a big part of my silence was intimidation and shame, and that should never have been part of my life at that time. But my response was a good one. The Bible makes it clear that Jesus did not answer His accusers. He did not do this out of intimidation or shame, but He did it, because it is the noblest way to handle an insult or an accusation.
And so, as I grow older and hopefully wiser, I may want to change my motivation, but I was right as a young woman to ignore insults and go on with my life. People in general tend to get a little nasty as they age, and I found in my pondering for this blog that nastiness is never an improvement.
So as I thought about the “If I Knew Then What I Know Now” there was yet another thing that came to mind that I actually did better when I was young than now. It is said that when Oliver Cromwell (born in 1599) had a portrait painted of him, he instructed the artist to include “warts and all.” He wanted to be who he was, and as a result, I assume that he accepted others more readily with their “warts.”
I find that as I get older, I am less vulnerable, less willing to let people know who I really am. I suppose that comes with years of being hurt by people. We are all hurt by people when we expose who we really are, but does that mean we should stop? Perhaps it means we should be more selective with whom we share, but we should not stop being vulnerable.
And we should allow people to be vulnerable with us without rejecting or criticizing them. I was also better at this when I was younger. Maybe I’m more discerning now. Yes, I think I am. But discernment should never be a barrier to accepting people “warts and all.”
I could share more examples but my point is this: we do grow more discerning in every way, and more able to see the foolishness of people’s accusations toward us as we age. But if we are not careful, that can result in bitterness rather than wisdom.
I want to be wiser as I get older! And so my New Year’s goal is to have the same gracious responses that I had when I was younger, only now, I drop the intimidation and the shame, and hopefully look more to Jesus, my example, who never defended himself, never stopped being real and vulnerable no matter how much pain that caused Him (and yet, even He was selective with whom He shared His deepest thoughts and feelings), and He never lost His gracious and forgiving spirit, even unto the cross.
So isn’t it interesting that I thought I would have all these things to share about how much wiser I am now than when I was young, and yet pondering it, I am going to look to my younger, more gracious self who was less prone to get offended, for example this year. Kind of humbling, but the prize for humility is wisdom, and wisdom is to be sought over all things!