We were eating ice cream as a small group when the topic turned to birthdays and my impending three-o. A friend expressed how much she wanted to be thirty, and when I inquired as to why, she responded that thirty-somethings have life figured out. I laughed, and assured her that that is not the case.
I’m not loathing thirty, but I’m not jumping at it either. I want to embrace it as just another year, but it does seem to carry a certain significance. Other prominent birthdays up to this point had certain privileges attached to them. This one seems like a mile marker in a race, a line in the sand by which to note what has and has not happened from my 18-year-old life plan.
I tend to be naturally reflective and so love an excuse to stop and remember. I wouldn’t fit into my twenty-year-old self, and I’m thankful for that. The last ten years have held the deepest lows and the most wonderful highs I have yet to know, all of which God has used to shape and form me. And not only have these circumstances been beneficial in developing character and values, but the journey of knowing Him has in and of itself become a treasure.
I hope when I’m turning forty that I will look back on my thirty-year-old self and not be able to fit into this body. I desire to grow, to be known as faithful, gentle, and one with hope. I have dreams for the next decade, all full of risk and trust and change. And perhaps that is what I am most thankful for – that He is unchanging, but my understanding of Him is not. My last ten years (and most likely the next ten) have ebbed and flowed, been secure and rocky, joyful and sad. But He has proven faithful through it all and will continue to. Getting to know Him has only proved that He is greater and more worthy than I can hold in this little heart. And so, much of what I have learned and want to remember seem to be from the imprints of His Word and Spirit.
First, the Gospel is really big. It’s the Kingdom coming, with it’s inauguration already initiated; which means that the Gospel is about my personal salvation and an entire universe more. It eradicates the dividing line between sacred and secular and calls for obedience and discipleship in every area of life. Kingdom coming means I am passionate about renewal and restoration, stewardship and investment, justice and mercy. And it is not only extensive in scope, but weighty in glory. The Gospel, set next to the world’s hope, is holy, holy, holy. The more I live, the more I see it’s beauty.
Second, rest. It reminds me of who I am and creates a boundary of my humanness. It leaves work at the office and protects me from attempting at super human scheduling feats. It allows space for lack, which ultimately drives me to rely on the Lord. When I practice rest, I move from depending on myself to trusting the Lord to sustain and provide that which is beyond me (which is, essentially, everything). When I stop, the world keeps spinning because Jesus is on the throne.
Third – excuses are lame. “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” Matthew 5:37. Which is another way to say: have integrity. It’s incredibly humbling to let reality be a simple, one-word answer that hangs in the air without further explanation. I find that my desire to explain is so often tied to seeking my own justification. Christ justifies me, and I’m learning to let that be enough.
Fourth. Live in the light; lies live in darkness. Some of the most painful conversations have involved letting light shine into dark, hidden corners. It blinds at first, and feels like sharp needles, having eyes so accustomed to darkness. But it heals. Light corrects perspective and orders priority, destroys the power of assumption and banishes false thinking. And I can only live in the light in vulnerable, transparent community. If the community can’t endure the light, it disintegrates. And I’ve found that it’s the genuine people and community left basking in the sunshine.
Finally, risk. Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians wasn’t that they would accomplish great things, or have a successful ministry. He desired that they would know how great the Father’s love was for them, and that they would live rooted and grounded in that love. I risk when I’m living secure in love, not intimidated by fear. True love was born out of risk in my life. At the beginning of dating, so much could be risked, because we were so convinced of how much He loved us. How much of my daily struggle and anxiety would be quieted if I truly loved in Love!
Thankful for these twenties, hopeful for my thirties, thankful for a steady God who will never change.