Forty Is the New . . . Whatever Makes You Feel Better

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I write to you from the throes of my last week in my thirties. I always knew the day would come, and I confess I have been in no hurry to get here. I could feel it hovering in the distance, like Tax Day; you ignore it as long as possible, but you know it’s coming for you, and even if you file an application for an extension, you’re still gonna pay.

I find myself a mess of contradictions. The best way to convey this to you is to give you a peek at my inner monologue.

The milestones I looked forward to most in life are all behind me now.

I don’t want to be thought of as old and irrelevant.

I feel more comfortable in my own skin than ever.

I enjoy and treasure my marriage more than ever.

I hate cellulite.

Cellulite doesn’t matter.

Just keep swimming.

As you can see, I am all over the place. Most of these are fleeting thoughts; they do not plague me from moment to moment, but they are most definitely there. If I stop all the noise and dial down, there is a wrestling.

I think if I have any revelation at forty, by the grace of God alone, it is that the wrestling is always there, has always been. The topics of my thoughts shift and change, but the underlying theme remains: my will versus His.

My will is that I stay young and pretty. That others look at me and want to be like me. That all my dreams for this life come true. That my failures are small and my successes great. That I have no regrets. That I get the life I want.

His will is that my heart would be pretty. That I would yield and allow Him to conform me to His Image. That my trust in His ways would supersede my need to conform to my culture. That I would let go of living for myself. That I would love Him enough to love others more.

It’s easy to see how these two could be locked in a perpetual arm wrestling match. The flesh and the spirit, a lifetime of war. This is what my fears and apprehensions about turning forty are really about. I sense the spirit getting the advantage, and my flesh grabs on with both hands, plants its feet, and uses its whole body weight to cheat its way to victory. (Which is, coincidentally, the only way I could ever win an actual arm wrestling match. I have the upper body strength of a fruit snack.)

Part of me wants to let go. To graciously and gracefully accept growing older. To embrace this season as an opportunity to learn more fully what it means to live in the Upside Down Kingdom. To prefer others, to serve wholeheartedly, to humble myself into such a position that I no longer see my life as an accumulation of check marks on a bucket list.

Another part of me is kicking and screaming. It likes getting what it wants. It likes being young and powerful, comfortable in the spotlight, setting its sights on new ways to feel important and alive. It shrieks, “Stay focused on me! Get what I want out of life!”

I am under no illusion that this will go away. The day after I turn forty, I will awaken to the same struggle: which master to serve today? But how amazing is grace? I do not have to hide the war with my self-serving nature. It drives me back to the gospel. My righteousness is Christ’s alone. I am hopelessly lost without grace.

I will say that, in my experience, the older I get, the more genuinely I root for the spirit. The more fleeting the world of the flesh appears, the less I want to associate with it. Call it maturity, call it life experience; whatever it is, I am grateful for it. The lie of sin grows thinner, less convincing.

So, when I am in my right mind, I am grateful to be turning forty. In truth, I should be grateful to turn any age. It’s another day to wage war, another day to revel in grace, another day to love with my life.

It’s also another day to check for gray hairs and troll the internet for more supportive undergarments. I will endeavor to do it with an eye roll and a smile.

“Do not regret growing older; it is a privilege denied to many.” – Unknown

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