On growing older

This post was first shared as issue 29 of These Sacred Words

I turned thirty this week.

I was a little surprised that this birthday came unexpectedly with some grief. This year, rather than rejoicing over another year and a new decade of life, my thoughts swam with I-wish-I-could-have’s and I-thought-by-now-I-would-have’s.

I thought by now we would have a family, my arms filled with littles. I wish I could be living overseas. I’d hoped we could settle and buy a house. I thought by now we’d have a little more figured out.

My expectations never seem to be quite met. Bitterness and disappointment crowd when my life doesn’t turn out like I’d hoped (but when does it ever?). My perspective blinds me to the multitude of little (and big) graces that God has revealed to me in the last three decades of my life.

Maybe you’re tempted to do this too? It can be so easy to look at the lives of others, or the life you expected, and only see how yours doesn’t measure up.

But this perspective is counter to the humility we are called to as Christians (Phil.2:3). It balks at the sovereign, kind hand of God over our lives (Matt. 10:29-31). Our constant discontent rejects his heart of kindness, nearness, gentleness, and goodness toward us (Psalm 139:16-17, Rom. 8:28-29, Psalm 94:14).

So today (read: every day this week), I’m scooping myself a bowl of cookies-and-cream ice cream and I’m taking time to remember God’s goodness and faithfulness to me in the last thirty years, rehearsing it until my heart swims with gratitude. Just a few of these graces have looked like the Lord:

  • Drawing me to himself at age 14 and keeping me close for the last 16 years
  • Entrusting me with Bible studies, ministries, and discipleship relationships that grew my faith and my love for teaching his Word
  • Using 22+ moves to reveal to me that my home is not here, and to lead me to long for heaven
  • Growing my heart for his people through overseas missions
  • Teaching me more about himself during my time at seminary
  • Cultivating my love for him through writing
  • Giving me Matthew, a gift beyond what I could have hoped for (but so different than what I expected), a constant and a kindness to me
  • Using the grief of empty arms and the journey of infertility to draw me closer than ever to himself

As I look at this list, I see with surprise that so many of the biggest graces in my life have come from the most difficult seasons (or maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised?).

So instead of sitting in bitterness at how my life doesn’t measure up, I’m praying for the strength to look to the Lord and remember his perfect kindness, his exact sovereignty, and his purpose in writing my life precisely the way it is.

I’m releasing my I-hope-this-year-I-will’s and instead trusting that God is working, surrendering to his plans for how he will write this year, and the next, and the next, and the next, until by his grace I step into glory and rest in perfect satisfaction in him forever.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

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