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When I was young, I used to think about how important it was to give our best to God; to use all the gifts and talents he had given us for good. But now, I think it is even more important to give our worst to him...

Jaymie Stuart
Wolfe

I'm not sure how it happened, but sometime between all the busyness and activity of life, I got old. You can tell yourself that 40 is your prime and 50 is the new 40. But when you get to 60? Nobody says any of those things, not even to themselves.

It's strange. You don't suddenly wake up decades older than you are, but it seems that way. And while things that happened in the 1980s and 90s feel like they were in another lifetime, I don't feel much different from the way I did 30 years ago. Of course, I don't look the way I did then. But in my mind's eye, I'm stuck at something like 19.

Alas! I'm not 19 anymore; in fact, our oldest grandchild is. Still, there's something inside that remains tightly linked to the child I used to be. I think it's because the person we are is the one we were, and the one we were is the one we always will be. The philosopher John Locke once asked whether a ship that has had all its parts replaced over time was still the same vessel. I'm pretty sure it is. The sails on the USS Constitution might not be original, the deck boards and ropes might have been replaced, but when she turns around in the harbor on the Fourth of July, she's still Old Ironsides.

We don't all weather evenly. The baggage we carry from one stage of life into successive ones seems to get a seat at our table whether we want it to or not. As it turns out, it's hard to get rid of things -- even the things you want to get rid of. The challenges we face over the years make their mark and take their toll. And yet, we do change and evolve. We make genuine progress over time, but often too slowly to notice it.

And that is all grace. As I look back, I can't help but see all the mistakes and misjudgments I've made as well as the sins I committed along the way. And yet, our God is bigger than both my successes and my failures. He takes all the terribly negative things we suffer and cause others to suffer and uses them all for our good and theirs. We cannot do this for ourselves. He does it all for us when we give him permission and commit ourselves to mercy as a lifestyle.

When I was young, I used to think about how important it was to give our best to God; to use all the gifts and talents he had given us for good. But now, I think it is even more important to give our worst to him; to surrender our sins and selfishness, our faults and weaknesses, our misguided intentions and misdirected efforts into his hands. Piece by piece, year by year, decade by decade, God replaces and refines all those things and mysteriously works his purpose and will through them -- not despite them.

There is nothing God cannot use. He redeems all the moments of our lives -- our worst as well as our best, the ones we cringe at with regret as well as the ones we remember with pride. And the milestones keep coming, not measured in years but in transformation. The habits we could not shake melt away in the light of his grace. The disciplines and virtues we struggled to gain emerge like flowers that bloom in autumn. And as long as we grow and learn and change, it's almost as if we're still 19.

- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and provides freelance editorial services to numerous publishers and authors as the principal of One More Basket. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.



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