Jim and I recently celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary. Twenty-six years. Just writing that causes me to pause.
I’ve now been married for longer than I was unmarried. More years of my life have been spent as a wife than spent as a child and young woman. I’ve known my husband for more years than the years during which I did not know him. For that matter, I’ve been a mother for longer than I was not a mother. No matter how I look at it, this thought staggers me.
Part of my amazement at this lies in a shattered illusion. I believed that by now I’d feel like an adult. Or rather, I’d feel like what I expected an adult to feel like. And yet, I don't feel what I expected I'd feel once I reached this age, this level, this decade of growth. I thought that I'd feel differently, as if I'd finally arrived, whatever that means.
I eat brussels sprouts, and lima beans, and I like them. Isn't that a feature of adulthood? How about having my name on a mortgage, car registration and insurance, and the annually-filed affidavit to the local superintendent stating that I am the supervisor of our home education program?
The music played on "classic rock" stations is the very music which I brought home from the record stores, peeling the plastic off of the cardboard covers and sliding the shiny-new vinyl disk onto my record player and turning the volume way up— until my Mom yelled at me to turn it down. Yeah, those "old" songs were new to me.
And now I like classical music, even opera...
I know stuff. I know that staying up too late at night to do fun stuff will impair my ability to wake up the next day to do important stuff. I know that getting the important stuff done first will give a greater sense of satisfaction later when it's time to do fun stuff. This knowledge affects the decisions I make, and I go to bed early in order to have that more productive morning. Go figure.
I know that babies grow too quickly into young adults, and that the first years are fleeting, and there is no way to slow those precious moments when they lay sleeping in your arms, so vulnerable and trusting. I know that changing hundreds of thousands of diapers isn't the most difficult aspect of parenthood, and I know that teaching multiple teenagers to drive an automobile is survivable, (at least, three of our five have been, check back in three years).
I have gray hair. And I don't color it.
All of these things are true of me, and yet they still don't get at what I'm thinking. Realizing that adulthood isn't comprised of favorable circumstances was the first hurdle to be overcome as I pondered this question. Being an adult doesn't mean having a new car, the house of your dreams, regular vacations, or health insurance. "Living the dream" doesn't define adulthood, one look at Hollywood celebrities quickly reveals that lie. There's even an aspect of independence which I initially thought was necessary for adulthood, but then I remember friends in wheelchairs and/or nursing homes who require the help of others in order to perform the most basic of functions in order to survive, and yet they are certainly adults.
How about the respect of others? Um... I hope not.
What I'm getting at is a certain feeling of assuredness, confidence, and maybe even wisdom, which I thought by now I'd possess. Some aspects of confidence surely are circumstantial, but there's a confidence which goes deeper than merely knowing that there's money in the bank. There are fears, uncertainties, and weaknesses which hold my heart captive at moments, during which I feel like a child all over again. In those moments I feel helpless and powerless, which I used to assume no adult feels— at least, not as often as I do.
I guess that, ultimately, "feeling like an adult" is an illusion if I'm waiting for some feeling which, as a child, I assumed that I'd have once I reached a certain age. If I'm looking within myself for assurance and strength I'll be disappointed every time. So I'll look instead to the One in Whom there dwells no weakness, and gladly remain His child:
"The LORD is my strength and my shield;
in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped..."