My birthday was this past week. Thirty six trips around the sun. It dawned on me that I have officially spent as much time under my parents roof as I have under my own. Equal parts child and adult. Boy does that realization send some perspective your way.
Thirty six. Today I’m grateful to be more experienced and wiser than the years that helped shape this one. Awhile back my pastor gave a message and imbedded in that message was the definition of wisdom. He said “wisdom is when knowledge meets action”. It really got me thinking. You can’t just know better, you have to DO better. I thought of this adage again as my birthday arrived and flipped back to it, written in the margin of my bible. Many women say that life begins at 40…or 50. They say they finally know who they are. And that knowing leads them to respond differently. As my birthday arrived this year, I literally encountered a shift. I woke with clarity like I haven’t experienced before; as if a fog had been lifted and all the life experiences leading to the present day were compelling me to walk out the next thirty six years differently.
Looking back on my life so far there has never a “bad” year…but gosh were there really bad moments. Low moments. Painful moments. Times I had completely lost myself, compromised my heart, hurt people I loved. There were moments I chose selfishness and convenience over discipline and integrity.
Today I listened to a sermon where the pastor said “your faith can’t grow in comfort”. Let that one sink in. CONVICTING, isn’t it? If you said yes, that’s because you, too, feel the weight of its truth. I’ve learned the most about myself, what I stand for, what I believe in, during those painfully uncomfortable times. The times that I questioned everything and felt completely alone. The times of loss. The times of hurt. Of anger. Of angst. Times without an ounce of self worth. The times spent in the valley.
Looking back through all that pain I realize now it was to allow Him to do something FOR me (not TO me). I also realize that walking with Him doesn’t make me exempt from hurt in the future. He’s never done doing a great work, ya know?
At thirty six the lessons learned are vast. They have become beacons from a lighthouse for me each and every time I’m out in the harbour of life; God my lightkeeper reminding me I’m not lost like I once was. I carry these lessons with me and, today, I share these with you with clear vision of what they mean to me (disclaimer: some of these are very active works in progress. For that, I’m thankful for grace)…
1- Nothing is impossible
I serve a faithful, loving, good God. He’s worked real miracles in my life. He brought me a husband I don’t deserve. He gave me beautiful children that give me their biggest smiles and call me their Momma. He healed a hole in my youngest child’s heart. He broke the chains of unforgiveness and restored my crushed soul from this stronghold. And, get this… He’s not done yet!
2- Boundaries I set are up to me to keep
Only I can say “no” (which is a complete sentence btw). Only I can decide what I will or will not tolerate. Only I can decide who I let in. I believe this is why we were given free will. We are called to love our neighbor. We are called to forgive. We are not called to be shit on (please pardon the cuss word- I haven’t learned that lesson yet).
3-People love the only way they know how
Our expectations of others is what leads to our greatest disappointments. I have people in my life that I have expected more from, better from. I get frustrated with their excuses. I become aggregated at their perceived lack of care. And then God reminds me that they, too, are human and their faults are as deep as my own. I cannot expect others to show love the way I would. They are not me. I am not them.
4- Comparison is, and always has been, the thief of joy
A timeless piece of advice. This was a HUGE ah-ha for me over the last 5 years. Interestingly, I’ve been a Christian the same amount of time. Repeat after me “I do not have to crowd source others’ opinions to find worth or joy”. Nope. Not living my life through the worldly lens of what I should have, what trends I should follow, how I should raise my kids. THAT’S A BIG FAT NOPE. Comparing steals my joy and replaces it with a deep keeping up with the Jones’ anxiety that takes goodness and twists it. Anxiety will not have a grip on me. It will not beat me. #nottodaydevil
5- Once words are spoken you can never get them back
Oh the things that have left my Type A+ lips that I wish hadn’t over the last thirty six years. Simply put, words can hurt. In my next thirty six, I’m committed to speaking kindly to others. I’m committed to talking to and not about others. I’m committed to shutting down gossip when the company I’m in wants to take that path. Salt and light. Salt and light, people.
6- The present is the most important part of the journey
You know that ice breaker question that asks “if you could live in any era what would it be and why”? I used to try to come up with something super creative that no one else would think of. But now? Now, my answer is TODAY. You can’t control the past. You can’t predict the future. But today? You can LIVE today. I vow that I won’t be so focused on what was or what could be that I miss what IS.
And, so here is where knowledge meets action. Here is where the clarity I have today sets me on the path to the next thirty six years. After all, it’s only wisdom if it transpires into the way I respond to the world around me. And what a gift to give myself on my birthday but to take courage and commit these to action. Lord, let this clarity not be a light shone on me that never pulls me into the harbour when the waves of life toss me around. Let them guide me home.