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Age is a funny thing. It has the power to make us feel powerful and important, or weak and incapable. Feeling “old” or “young” can have remarkable consequences for how we treat ourselves and others. Whether it’s the naivete of a teenager, the wisdom (or stodginess) of the retired, or the whirl-wind that is the “prime of life,” the world judges us by the number of years we’ve been alive.
But it’s just a number, right?
Well, I just turned 30. Honestly, I feel just how I thought I would feel.
And nothing like I thought I would feel.
The boat would turn onto the new tack, or course, as the passenger ducked under the boom that was swinging to the other side of the boat. The passenger would find a perch on the opposite side of the boat from the billowing sail and lean back to balance the boat. The sail would fill up with the wind and off we would go in the new direction. It was magical, like a dance on the water.
As last year was ending and a new year approaching, I, like many, did my own little “year in review.” 2017 seemed to have its share of downers. Among them, my mother fell and broke her hip, and subsequently died. After finally persuading my husband to take a vacation (it had been several years since our last one), our trip south in September was cancelled by a hurricane (one of several that affected our country). There were earthquakes and wild fires in our country and terrorist attacks all over the world. I personally was sick with bronchitis for over six weeks. That was followed by a shingles outbreak that lasted 4 months. In December my husband spent 8 days in court being defended in a law suit. I could easily have felt sorry for us, and the world in general.
Our society uses merit-based standards to judge whether someone or something is worthy of a title or role, such as a Grammy or Oscar award winner, military General, Nobel Laureate, pageant winner, etc. We consider income, status, accomplishments or the opinions of others to determine worth. We also place a great emphasis on self-esteem, which is defined as “a feeling that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect.”
But what does scripture say about worth and worthiness?
Long before I became a mom, I worked in Santa Monica, CA. I worked for a boss who would harass me sexually with his vocal comments. He was very inappropriate. So much so that I wanted to file a report with OSHA. However, I feared that he would track me down. He did not seem to be a very stable human being. The payroll check that I received bounced. No real surprise there, considering his instability.
It’s hard to remember the last time I was truly joyful. I’m a generally happy, positive person. But when was the last time I truly exuberated joy? I’ve heard the difference between happiness and joy described many ways, but this is one of my favorites: Happiness is an emotion that can disappear as quickly as it comes, but Joy is a choice.
Relationships aren’t always easy. They require intentionality and work. Sometimes they are slow to grow and develop. To expect anything different is setting yourself up to be frustrated and disappointed. Relationships have highs and lows, ups and downs. Like our faith journey, our relationships are rarely, if ever, smooth and constant, often riddled with obstacles along the way.
I’ve been thinking about those Wise Men this Advent. Their trip to Bethlehem was probably not looked upon as “wise” at the time.
It’s not as though they could call Delta Airlines and make reservations for a flight from, say, Samarkand to Jerusalem for December the 24th. This would have been a long and arduous trip. I’m imagining their conversations with their wives before they left,
“So, Melchior, where exactly are you going?” Melchior’s wife Ann-chior peers at him as she stirs their lentil stew in a pot on the fire.
“Heading toward Jerusalem, Honey. But I couldn’t say for certain where we’ll end up.” Melchior grabs pita bread and stuffs it into a pack.
“So you don’t have a destination to put into your Garmin?” Ann-chior puzzles.
“Actually, we are following a star,” Melchior mutters.
“A star. I should have known. It’s always stars with you.” She rolls her eyes.
Make no mistake. I love Jesus and have always been very aware of my need for a Savior. But my story is a long and bumpy one, and I have baggage that steers me back to self. In the end my problem is sufficiency on myself instead of my Savior: to have the answers, to have the plan, to have the understanding, to have the capability…the list is long for me and my self-stuff. When God took hold of my heart on this issue, He showed me the difference between submission and surrender.
“My kids are at the age now where every good thing that happens for them is bittersweet,” I lamented to a friend recently. With three young adult/older teenage children, exciting opportunities abound: college acceptances, semesters abroad, internships in another city…you get the idea. Am I excited about the wonderful opportunities my children have? Of course! Am I a proud mama? You bet! I’m certainly not wishing they were unable or unwilling to do anything but sit on the couch with the remote. As parents, we work hard to help our children grow and mature. We strive to teach them what they need to know, be, and do to be independent; children leaving the nest (hopefully a little at a time) is the end game. Yet every flight away from the nest brings them farther from their Mom, and I don’t mean just geographically.