Sometimes I feel as though the girl I was and the woman I am are two completely unrelated people. There are similarities, of course. But life is so full of bumps and turns and chances to change… each year molds me into a person who is a little different from the year before.

I think those who get sick (and especially those who stay sick) often feel a sense of mourning and loss over the person they used to be – an identity they’ve left behind somewhere.

A common response to trauma in life is splitting the years into before and after. We wrestle with identity. Who am I now that I can’t be athletic or stay up late or hollar at the top of my lungs? Am I the same person? No! Of course not. None of us are. All of us change as time unfurls.

The real question, I think, is: Have I been able to hold on to the parts of me that are essential to who I am? Do I still have value? Am I still loved?

Someone once said “To love someone long term is to attend a thousand funerals of who they used to be.” I read this on a blog recently, and I like it. It resonates.

What is essential to who you are? What makes you you? I encourage you to focus on your values, the things you love, on spiritual aspects of who you are.

On the same blog, I read this: I don’t know who [the author of the quote is], but it must have been a very wise person. The best friends, the ones who last a life time, are the ones who encourage the funerals of our former selves. The ones who change with us. Who celebrate and value the person who is today and not some past or idealized self that you can never be again.

All of this reminds me of the Robert Munsch book Love You Forever, about a mother who is always sneaking across the hall, or across the town, to cuddle her son while he sleeps and to tell him “Love you forever, like you for always, as long as you’re living, my baby you’ll be.”

Years ago I taught day care and part of my job involved leading a spiritual circle each afternoon. My students were only two, and English was their second language, so I kept things as simple as possible. One story I loved reading to them was an adaptation of the famous poem How Do I Love Thee by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I read this children’s book as if it were a love poem from God to them.

I encourage you to dig up this book – read it, or watch a video of someone else reading it, and treasure it as a message that captures the heart of God for you.

It is comforting to know that we are loved by a God who isn’t thrown by who we have been or who we have become. He loves us now, just as we are. He’ll love us forever; He likes us for always; as long as we’re living, His children we’ll be.

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