Last week I woke up to a new decade. An iconic decade. The decade that means I’m officially middle-aged. Last week I turned 40.
It sounds depressing, but instead of viewing turning 40 as a life half empty, I’ve been seeing it as a life half full.
I remember my mom telling me that the hardest part about getting older is that your body ages way before your mind does. I don’t feel 40 at all.
In fact, the other day I was at the pool with a friend and there was a young lifeguard there. I looked at my friend and said, “Why is it that I feel like I’m still his age. He’s looking at me like ‘You could be my mother’ and I’m looking at him like ‘I’m one of you.'” It’s all so surreal.
Even though I may feel like I’m still twenty-something, I look back and see how far I’ve come. My twenties were the decade where I was the center of my universe. It was all about me and my dreams and my life and what I wanted to do. College, graduate school, job searching, soul-searching, fearing I wouldn’t get married, wishing I had a baby, dreaming about my future house or life or whatever. It was all about me. Those were the years of searching.
Then I turned thirty.
Crisis set in not because of the number thirty, in and of itself, but because all of my searching hadn’t gotten me very far. I had spent an entire ten years living for nothing more than what I wanted out of life, and living for yourself is the quickest way to never finding yourself.
In those first few years I flailed. Still not knowing who I was or what I was supposed to be doing. When I was a little girl if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would have told you “a mommy.” And at thirty years old that hadn’t changed. But I wasn’t married. I looked ahead to a future of questions but no answers.
Then I got married.
Marriage has a way of bringing you to the end of yourself. No longer was there the choice of life being all about me. A heart transplant knocked me down a notch. Along with one or two far less serious
disagreements fights. God not-so-gently whispered, “Get over yourself. It’s time to lay down your life . . . for Me.”
If my twenties were the years of searching, then my thirties were the years of awakening.
I awakened to three truths.
This life isn’t about me.
In the midst of my early to mid-thirties, fear was still there. Sure I was married, but children were only a hope. My husband had to survive for children to be possible. So there again I found myself peering into the future not knowing.
I had a choice to make. I could continue as I had in my twenties, demanding my will be done, or I could surrender. I chose to surrender. That doesn’t mean I wanted my dreams any less. What it means is that I learned my life wasn’t about my will.
In my twenties life was about pursuing happiness and comfort at all cost. But my thirties were filled with more giving my life away and less taking. All of my demands were replaced with, “God, only if this is your desire to fulfill your plan through me.”
Suffering is inevitable.
My twenties could best be described as a romantic comedy. I romanticized life to be full of fun, hearts, and glitter, and that’s what I tried to obtain.
Then people started getting sick. There was cancer and accidents and death. The world got smaller, and I looked in the eyes of people in Africa who were starving and oppressed. I learned about human trafficking and the millions of babies dying before they’re ever born. I realized abuse experienced by my closest friends.
Life became a drama. No longer could I sit back in a supporting role. I was called to jump into the suffering – my own suffering and the suffering of others – because only through suffering would I find hope. “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4).
It was in the suffering that I saw Jesus.
Heaven is coming.
Trying to make sense of suffering without making sense of heaven will make you insane. I learned that only through the lens of eternity can I see the exchange of hope for my suffering.
So I began to focus on eternity.
Throughout these years I’ve learned to say, “Whatever your will, Lord, to get me and others to know you better, love you deeper, and trust you completely.” Because, you see, heaven is coming. And only through Jesus will we get there.
Now to begin my 40’s . . .
As I begin this new decade in my life my prayer has become, “Lord, give me time.” Time. That’s all I want.
I’ve become so aware of all there is to do in this world. All there is to do for God’s kingdom. All the people who need to see Him. Need to know Him. And I want to be a part of it.
My biggest fear is to miss out on what God wants to do through me and in my midst. My biggest fear is for Him to look at me and not be able to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
So I pray, “Lord, give me time. Help me to get over myself, rejoice in suffering, and keep heaven at the forefront of my mind so that you may work through me to bring about your purposes for eternal glory.”
What life lessons have you learned through the years?