I’m 40 years old today. I’ve heard I’m supposed to lament over this. But I don’t feel like wailing. I was remembering that in the 28 years I knew my great-grandmother, she rejoiced in every birthday as a personal achievement. In fact, in my memory, neither her, nor my grandmother, nor my mother ever mourned over getting older. Birthdays were a day to be celebrated.
And why not? I mean, I have indeed noticed a few changes to my body in recent years. I have more grey hairs. I have more wrinkles. My skin is getting saggier in places. But I have another year under my belt, and that’s awesome! Because the truly good news is that with each passing year, I’m being transformed. Sure, I’m changing physically, but I’m also changing emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. With every passing year, I learn new things and after 40 years, that really adds up.
I’ve learned a lot of things about myself over the years. Things that have been both enlightening and humbling. I’ve learned I like change. I love it, actually. But I also like routine. Yes, I’m a confusing paradox. I’ve learned I can’t control everything. I cannot plan my way to stability. I do not know the future. I’ve learned that I’m a people-pleaser and I like to be well thought of. And along with that, I’ve learned that seeking the approval of people is both futile and debilitating.
I’ve learned things about others in my four decades of living. I’ve learned that making an effort for people is always worth it. I’ve learned that being dependent on people once in a while is not the end of the world. That everyone is imperfect, but still worthy of love.
I’ve learned things about God after 25 years of knowing him. I’ve learned that He is faithful and good. That he brings peace to the human heart. That his Spirit speaks. That his goal is not to make me comfortable, but to make me more like Jesus.
I learned things about life. I’ve learned that the best decisions we make are based on faith, not fear. That owning less is actually liberating. That we should never say “never” because real life experience has a way of changing our opinions. I’ve also learned that life is full of unexpected turns and it’s best to lean into them and enjoy the ride.
These are the kinds of lessons you can’t hand to a young person on a silver platter. You can’t just list these life lessons for a teenager and be done with it. We’re wired to grasp lessons more fully through trial and error. These lessons are earned with the passage of time and the gift of experience. The pains and joys of life teach us. The regrets and achievements change us. The losses and the pleasures shape us.
I would hope that someone who met me 20 years ago would still recognize me today. I don’t think my physical transformation has been that drastic yet. But in many other ways, I hope I am unrecognizable from my 20 year old self. I’d never want to go back. You couldn’t pay me enough to go back to my 20 year old self, my 30 year old self, or even my 39 year old self. Every single year of life experience is priceless to me.
I’m so glad to be 40. Imagine the ways God will refine and transform me between now and my 50th birthday! Cheers to that!