I will be forty years old in less than sixty days.
This is not sitting well with me.
I remember crying the year I turned thirty because I had four babies, a husband working two jobs and going to seminary, and an address far away from anyone who could show up and rescue me from my exhaustion. Life was not turning out how I had planned and I was afraid of crossing the threshold into the age of life where I assumed people had all the things figured out.
Right now, I want to laugh at the naivety of that statement but I can’t. I was so tired, so on the brink of adding two more kids to the family, and so unsure of who I was or what I was doing that the only thing I really remember is the crushing anxiety that kept me up at night. By day, I was the walking dead with an artificial smile plastered on my face. But by night, I was a ball of nerves with a heavy weight on my chest just counting down the hours until the morning.
Ten years later, at the threshold of another stage of life, I still feel much like I did at twenty-nine. Life isn’t turning out like I had imagined it would. The kids still fill me up and spill me out. I still war against anxiety in the middle of the night. I still stand on the scale and shudder at the change in the number. And I’m still fumbling around in the mystery of God trying to find my hidden identity.
But I’m learning that part of this growing older business isn’t about arriving at a place of omniscience or a place of self awareness or a place of perfect circumstances so that I can live at peace with myself.
Growing older is about learning to see all of life through the lens of grace so that I learn to live at peace IN Christ.
By nature, I am a contemplative person. Meaning, I see and feel and experience all of life with the full on awareness that all of life comes from God and that in God, I am alive. I can stare at my proverbial naval for hours on end, poking around in the depths of what is hidden beneath my layers of skin, trying to find my truest self in Christ.
But in the busyness and stress of life, I can quickly fixate my eyes on every external thing in my mundane existence and become filled with anxiety and panic and sometimes, even dread. When this happens, a desire to arrive at a place of external peace in life so that my insides feel at ease eventually begins to trump my desire to simply live internally at peace IN Christ. I begin to set my day to rearranging the circumstances of my living and stuffing my brain with every measure of knowledge and seeking to know my soul’s hurts and hang-ups, to the degree that I no longer have time to see the Jesus who loves me, saves me, and dwells within me. And in no time flat, the grace that enables me to see my life through the lens of love is only a concept beyond my finite mind’s ability to comprehend.
Shauna Niequist often writes about hospitality as the means by which we extend grace and nourishment to those around us. We gather our loved ones around the table and feed their bellies. We break the bread and pass the wine and we remember the Jesus who broke to give us life. But recently, Shauna made the leap from showing hospitality to others to being hospitable with ourselves.
And I believe she’s onto something.
When I look at my very physical being as the temple that Jesus, the source of all peace, dwells within, I begin to take quite seriously the task of taking care of that temple. I make choices that allow me time to sit in quiet and listen to His still, small voice. I feed my body in such a way that doesn’t numb me from being able to sense His presence. I develop rhythms of living that cultivate the ministry of paying attention to how Jesus reveals Himself in every detail of my life. I read scripture looking for Jesus in the words, and not myself. I turn inward and gaze at my naval long enough to gain my bearings in Jesus who is my peace.
And this awakening to Jesus as the source of my peace enables my eyes to see my external world through the lens of grace.
Turning forty isn’t sitting well with this mama of six.
But it is the means by which I am growing older in Jesus, who is making all things sit well within me.