Tomorrow is my 27th birthday.
I’m not sure where I thought I would be at 27 – it seems like an age with a certain amount of insignificance and monotony in the midst of being a 20-something. As I look back over the past 5-10 years, though, I can see that by 27 I finally feel like I have begun to “grow into myself.”
High school was rough. I didn’t know how to be comfortable with who I was, and I was constantly seeking my identity in academics and activities and relationships, looking for anything or anyone who could tell me who I was and what value I added. Going into college, Anne Shirley (via L.M. Montgomery) put to words the tension in my mind – “There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.”
Each fall, I reread the first three books of the Anne of Green Gables series. I get lost in the daydreamy world of Prince Edward Island and the way Anne views the world around her. Each season of the year carries its own beauties and gifts. Every trial or scrape with it her sense of adventure and a lesson well learned that helps shape Anne into the woman she is becoming. Perhaps this time of year more than any other finds my own heart daydreaming, narrating the world around me as maples and oaks change colors and discover new aspects of their own nature.
As with any other book series, it’s fascinating to observe the ways the author develops the characters and allows them to grow more and more into themselves. The reader gets a birds-eye view as he reflects on what he has read, a position I am learning to take more often in my own life to see how the Greatest Author has been developing my own character – and how I believe He isn’t done yet. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
In college, I really began to recognize how much I didn’t know about myself. I felt like I had lived within a “box” of who I was expected to be until I was 18, many of those expectations created by myself and how I thought others viewed me. Then college brought a bevy of new relationships and new decisions, forcing me to really identify what I wanted and what I enjoyed. This blatant recognition of not knowing myself acted as a shovel, the tool I needed to start digging into my own self.
“They keep coming up new all the time – things to perplex you, you know. You settle one question and there’s another right after. There are so many things to be thought over and decided when you’re beginning to grow up. It keeps me busy all the time thinking them over and deciding what’s right. It’s a serious thing to grow up, isn’t it, Marilla?”
After 27 years, I finally feel comfortable in my own skin. I feel like I know myself better than I ever have before. I have had enough life experiences and vastly different jobs to allow me to understand my personal strengths and weaknesses and preferences and sin tendencies. While there is much self-awareness that can be learned through personality tests and StrengthsFinders assessments, the most powerful teacher in the subject of “self” has simply been experience. New situations allow me to ask new questions, and both successes and disappointments have contributed to the shaping of my life.
“Oh, Marilla, looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them,” exclaimed Anne. “You mayn’t get the things themselves; but nothing can prevent you from having the fun of looking forward to them. Mrs. Lynde says, ‘Blessed are they who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed.’ But I think it would be worse to expect nothing than to be disappointed.”
And not only can I see that I know myself better at this almost-27, but I know God better. The more time I spend with Him, and the more I find myself depending on Him daily, the deeper my intimacy with this Author. The more I can recognize His voice as a Writer, the more I notice the patterns and consistencies He weaves into my life. Yet, at the same time, I find that there is so much more that I don’t know about Him. The cliche proves true that “the more I learn, the less I know.” I am more keenly aware of the hugeness of God at almost-27, and thus I am more keenly aware that I can’t ever know it all. I see my brokenness to a greater extent in light of this holy, incomprehensible God, and this drives me to desire a deeper relationship than I even knew possible 5-10 years ago.
In reflection, I see God’s faithfulness throughout my story. Like any good author, He uses each aspect of the plot to beautify the story and to add depth to my character development. He creates scenarios that will aid the development of the story. He foreshadows a bigger picture in the story. Even if the revelation won’t occur for many chapters to come, He can be trusted as an Author.
“When I left Queen’s my future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I am going to believe that the best does. It has a fascination of its own, that bend, Marilla. I wonder how the road beyond it goes – what there is of green glory and soft, checkered light and shadows – what new landscapes – what new beauties – what curves and hills and valleys farther on.”
So as I enter my 27th year and carry new hopes and expectations into what’s in store, I am grateful for the character development God as Author has worked in me. I fully believe that He is sovereign over this story, and He can see the bigger picture of chapters to come that I won’t understand from where I am now. But, as Anne Shirley does, I am seeing the beauty of where I am now and content with the understanding I have been given up to this point. In another ten years, I expect to look back and see how much I actually didn’t know at almost-27.