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.
Year 30 always seemed so far off. When I would watch Friends, I couldn’t possibly imagine what it would be like to be that old. I always thought that by the time I got to 30 I would “have my life together.” I’d be happy, have a big house, a big career, and be independent (although, I thought, I would still parade around with pink hair and add more tattoos). And if I didn’t know what I was doing by 30, then it would be too late and I should just write it off as a loss. I never planned to get married or have children and I was ok with that.
Yet, here I am. 30. Independent and strong, just like my momma raised me; and yet dependent on a Savior for my every need; married to a good man, whom I like; two pretty awesome daughters. No college degree; no work experience outside waitressing, wishing I could afford to be a stay-at-home mom (never thought I’d say that), and still touting pink hair and planning my next tattoo.
- Humility is the best policy. From Proverbs 11:2, When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom, to Jesus telling his disciples (Matthew 18:4) “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven,” the Scriptures constantly tell us humility is a good quality of a Christian. Humility allows us to remain quiet while praying for those who need it. Humility allows us to serve without grumbling about acknowledgment or repayment. Humility allows us to be gentle and kind with the words we do use, being careful not to hurt the ones we’re rebuking. Humility allows us to rely on Jesus for every breath, putting aside the pride that says we can breathe on our own. And according to the Beatitudes, our humility is met by God’s blessing. So here’s what I do when I’m faced with decisions. I know in my heart that the choice that keeps me humble is the best choice because the humble servant is the one God will exalt (Matthew 23:12). My life has obviously turned out very different than I thought it would, and yet it’s better than I could’ve ever imagined.
- Fear should be reserved only for God. Time after time in the Bible we see examples of how the fear of the Lord is returned with blessing–from Job, who lost everything, and continued to praise the One who took it away, to the wisdom of Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” I’ve always struggled with fear of how people think of me. I’m a people-pleaser to a fault, usually because I crave being loved by everyone I come in contact with, from the mailman, to my barista, to my kid’s teacher. But the fear of the Lord tells me I don’t have to be afraid of what others think. I have to work for the Lord and not for man. I have to seek the kingdom of God first, and the rest will come. The Lion of Judah is the only one whose roar I should fear. What a relief! It is so much less stressful to seek His approval rather than the approval of others. This means I work hard and I do what’s right in the eyes of the Lord, even when no one’s looking. It means I’m kind, and I treat people with dignity. And it means I’m intentional with every stroke of the key, and forgive greatly as I have been forgiven.
- I’m never going to feel at home. I’m emotionally very sensitive. This is probably one of the reasons I’m a people pleaser. And a nomadic life has led me to be flexible and adjustable, and not put importance on establishing roots. I’ve been living away from family for the last 9 years. My husband and I have relied solely on church friends for babysitting and relationships. And those needs have been met. But I’ve always felt like something was missing. My family back home is the best. They show unconditional love, all the time. They’ll give you everything they have: the clothes on their backs, the food in their pantry, and the beer in their fridge, just for a good conversation. Leaving home was very hard, especially since they’re not believers and were not supportive of us moving across the country. And I feel like I’ve been searching for that same unconditional love since we left. It’s the only kind of family I know. When we moved to Philadelphia from Arizona, everyone we started to connect with already had their family traditions, the structures, their friendships, their routines. And while they embraced us kindly and helped us survive our first winter and our first child, in my soul it wasn’t enough. So I was hoping to find it up here in New York, where we just moved 6 months ago. There’s a quote by C.S. Lewis on the wall of the church we attend, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” I never “fit in” in school. And I still have a hard time really “connecting” with people. But maybe I’ve been spending way too much energy waiting for this “at home” feeling. I’m not going to be satisfied while I am here on earth. And that’s ok. I’m honestly at peace with it. Peace is one more thing I have to look forward to when I join the saints in heaven. Then, and only then, will my soul feel at home.
I hope I can look back like this again when I’m 60. I wonder what steps the Lord will have established for me, despite my plans. I wonder what choosing humility will look like when I’ve been married for 40 years. I wonder what role the fear of the Lord will play in my life, 44 years after my salvation.
I’m thankful for my 30 years. Everything it has been, everything it is, and everything it wasn’t.
And I look forward to the next 30.