I am 38 years old, and more and more in conversations I find myself saying, “I’m practically 40!”
I realize that is an odd thing to do: to round up to a middle-age birthday. It’s not that I’m wishing away today, when my arms are full of precious little boys and my days are full of baby-busy. It’s just that, these days, I see the middle as something to aspire to, something worthy to obtain.
You see, some Christians have to die to themselves and their desires every day; for most of my life, I have needed to die to myself every five minutes. Motivated and ambitious, I pursued goals for the thrill of the chase and the bullet point on my resume. Now, don’t get me wrong: there is no reason to fault an ambitious woman (or man); however, in my case, whose glory was I ambitious for?
Unfortunately, mainly my own.
I spent a lot of my early adulthood praying for success in my endeavors, and I was successful! I worked a lot, but that would have been a moot point without God’s favor. He showed a lot of grace to me, and I had a lot of positive professional experiences.
But, beginning around age 28, I began to pray that God would shape the desires of my heart; that He would mold my heart after His. Over time, this prayer and God’s favor has resulted in a gradual shifting of my priorities and a reorganization of my life. These days I don’t have a anything professionally I can use to prop up my identity, and (for me) that’s a good thing. God knows what I’m prone to worship, and He’s given me a chance to clear the deck for a bit. Better than that, he’s given me a chance to serve others instead of only myself. I have a house full of little boys who require many things I’m not good at and I’d rather not do. This has been a tremendous blessing that has produced much-prayed-for maturity and growth. I needed to decrease so that God could increase in my life (John 3:30). And He has! Walking the path of servant-hood has deepened my faith and my understanding of the character of a God who – inexplicably – bends down moment after moment to serve us. In the darkest and most vulnerable moments of parenthood, the love that motivated the cross takes on a whole new shimmer. Amazing grace, indeed!
So I guess when I say that I am looking forward to 40, I am saying that I want to keep moving; I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to go back to the girl who was well-intentioned but dangerously ambitious. I don’t want to worship at the alter of my own ego. I just want to keep running forward to wherever God calls me next.
Philippians 3:7-14: But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowingChrist Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings,becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrectionfrom the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press ontoward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.