I’m 39 today.
I’ve been dreading this birthday. It marks the last gasp of a brutal decade—one that ushered in emotional disorders, chronic physical challenges, spiritual battles, and relational wounding.
I just keep thinking: If my 3os were so hard, what am I up against in my 40s?
Yet this past month my thoughts have turned to the benefits I’ve reaped through ungraceful aging. My friend, Lisa, summed it up over coffee a few weeks ago when she said something like this:
“I know better who I am, and who I’m not. And I’m finally comfortable with both.”
Bingo. As her words resonated, I began to reflect on the most important lessons I’ve learned since 29.
1. I’m not a “good” person.
Given the right circumstances, I’m capable of the darkest deeds imaginable.
I would have paid lip service to this truth at 29, but I hadn’t really glimpsed the reality at that age. I hadn’t lived through the intensity of stress and depletion that would come through depression, panic, adoption, chronic illness, and a dozen other unanticipated challenges of my 30s.
Apart from Christ, I’m utterly incapable of anything but destruction.
2. The bigger the sin, the bigger the cross.
Thankfully, the lesson didn’t end there. The deeper I saw into my own heart, the broader grew the shadow of the cross. The farther I fell out of love with myself, the more completely I fell in love with him. Came to depend on him. Wanted to follow him.
I learned to pray a dangerous prayer: More of him, less of me.
“There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.” ~Corrie ten Boom
3. Wisdom > Youth
I’m firmly in ma’am territory now. I have the wrinkles and gray hair to prevent any misconception as to my maturity. I see photos of myself when the kids were babies (i.e. yesterday) and wonder what happened to that girl with the youthful glow.
She broke, I tell myself. Those were the good old days, and these are the days when everything’s going to pot. At least, that’s what I told myself for most of the past year. But it’s a lie.
Would I really trade a decade’s worth of failures, mistakes, and pain for smooth skin and joints that don’t crack in the morning? No. Hard-won wisdom is the only kind worth having. And if it comes with a side of crow’s feet, so be it.
So I turn 39 today without the regret I expected to carry into this year. As Lisa said, I know myself better—the good, the bad, and the ugly. And because I also know my Savior better, I’m comfortable being who I am. Broken, yes…but broken beautiful, because of him.