The younger me knew better
Published 5:53 pm Tuesday, August 31, 2021
By QuaWanna Bannarbie
According to legendary tales like Peter Pan, “the child inside each of us never grows up.” Lately, I have begun to wonder whether my inner child is much wiser than her progressing form today.
I traveled to my hometown of Americus, Georgia, for a brief visit this summer. It is always good to go home. Every trip home, random gifts find their way back to Virginia. On one occasion two years ago, my grandmother gave me an apron, old photos of her and my mother and dried beans. There are two blooming hibiscus bushes on the side of my house today as a result of my grandmother insisting that I dig them from her yard and bring them back with me in 2018. During this trip, I made an intentional selection of cargo. I brought back my high school and college yearbooks.
It didn’t take long after we returned from the visit before I was flipping through the pages of days past. My mother must have kept every newspaper clipping from my high school years, and I had taped them all to my memory book. I didn’t remember that I had been in the newspaper that often. She had also kept letters that I had written home from college, and they revealed events in my life that I had forgotten.
We have heard of the practice of writing letters to our younger selves. Recalling my past memories felt like I was reading a letter that the younger me wrote to the future me.
“QuaWanna, do you see you at this moment? You are a dynamic young woman. Imagine what happens when you put all this potential in a future that we are pursuing.” I wondered if she would be happy with me. I wondered what she knew then that I need to know now.
I don’t doubt for a moment that the younger version of me had a kind of faith that I have stalled. My adult faith is challenged by my pride and tarnished by my advancement in sight. I have seen too much now. One might suggest that the older that I am, I would know better than the younger me. The older I have become, the more I have learned about the world and how it views me. The younger I was, the more I was concerned about me and the knowledge of what is mine to do. I think that was a healthy and selfish perspective. I always had my future in view.
My childhood may not have been the best it could have been. I grew up the oldest of three girls being raised by a single parent after my parents divorced. There were struggles. I now realize that those circumstances only provided a backdrop to my developing story. That backdrop made me all the more malleable in the Master’s hands when I decided to accept Jesus Christ for my own sake.
When I think of how much the scripture points out the need for us to be children of God as sons and daughters rather than “men and women of God,” I understand why the need for the child in each of us to remain alive. The child is a student, a sponge, a willing receiver of the teacher’s gift. That a baby develops into a toddler, then a preschooler and then a high schooler by listening, watching, feeling, doing and experiencing the environment around her is evidence that children lean into forward momentum. Adults start thinking they know better and that is when stalling happens. Instead of answering when Jesus calls as the child did in Matthew 18, we hesitate and thus we exchange simplicity for perplexity and forget that Jesus answered that a child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (verse 4).
Let us get back to the measure of faith we held as children.
QuaWanna Bannarbie is a teacher, writer and affirmer of faith, identity, relationships and experiences. Connect with her via firstname.lastname@example.org.