“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
2 Corinthians 3:17
“Hi, my name is Megan and I’m 40”.
I hear admitting this reality is the first step toward recovery.
One year ago, as the sun set on my 39th birthday, an involuntary ambush of internal thoughts pulled the pin on what felt like a ticking time bomb. Only 365 days left. Left of what? I wasn’t sure. But change felt ominously inevitable, nevertheless.
Up until now, these annual celebrations complete with the traditional song, the blowing of the candles and the enjoying of the yellow cake with chocolate icing felt like putting on a favorite t-shirt. Warm. Comfortable. Known.
In my 30s I still identified with the younger generation. We were in the driver’s seat. Every marketer wanted to sell to us. Every church wanted to figure out how to get us in the doors. Doctors weren’t handing out information pamphlets about the next strongly suggested medical exam. I wasn’t wondering if I should give up running and switch to “wogging” due to mysterious aches and pains manifesting the next day. I didn’t turn up the volume on Retin-A advertisements. My kids didn’t look at me sideways when someone asked me my age.
At age 35, I felt like I could link arms with 25-year-old friend in a gesture of solidarity. If not sisters, we were at least close first cousins.
But 40? Mom jeans are 40. The white man’s overbite is 40. Mammograms are 40. Wearing black socks with Birkenstocks is 40. Haven’t quite hit the colonoscopy era, but still… How was a cool 39 year-old like myself supposed to embrace these over-the-hill relatives?
Truth be told, I’ve been 40 for only a few hours, but perhaps my rash judgments need a little re-evaluation.
The light of a new dawn begins to glow at the crest of this hill, shining light on a few invigorating and slightly duplicitous revelations:
1. I can wear pink. That’s right. This fair-skinned, strawberry blonde, autumn has been known to rock the likes of pink and even purple in recent years. “Color Me Beautiful” blasphemy has never felt better. Rockin’ a pink shirt and white pants. Bam. This is 40.
2. I am a parent. Oh, I know my oldest son is about to turn 13, but quite frankly, the label of “parent” felt optional. Like an accessory of sorts. It wasn’t until I dropped my soon-to-be teenager off at his first Wyldlife club and felt the direct fire of his “Mom-what-are-you-still-doing-here” stare that the reality of this fact truly sank in. I used to be the cool Young Life leader who high-fived the boys and giggled with the girls. I was the one teenage girls would come to with the gossip they wouldn’t dare tell their parents. And now, I am she. The parent. There is something slightly disarming and yet invigorating about this revelation. Though my kids often look at me like I have two heads, they also sometimes laugh at my jokes. And not the pre-school potty humor – the dry and witty ones. There’s nothing more satisfying than having a kid who can just about look you in the eyes, respond to your joke from the back seat of the car with a smirk and a knowing nod. We can watch movies, send knowing glances at the more inappropriate material and talk about the moral of the story. Ah, this is 40.
3. My children do not define me. Given that I just came to terms with being a parent, you’d think this one would be easy. It isn’t. I have to remind myself these charges of mine are just that charges — not puppets. Though I am charged with guiding them well, who they are and what they become is entirely up to them. If I don’t want to take the blame for their mistakes, how can I expect to reap accolades for their successes? These sweet children are direct gifts from a loving and compassionate Father. He has asked me to co-labor with him for now, but they are being molded by the Spirit just as I am. God’s masterpieces. Lovingly directed by a Creator God to do the works he has prepared in advance for them to do.
5. I still care what my parents think. Sigh. I have been out of their house for nearly 20 years and there are still days it’s hard to leave and cleave. Perhaps this has been one of the biggest stressors on my marriage. There were times in my 30s I felt more like a daughter than a full-blown adult; reverting to the role of my first-born, people pleasing self. But 40 feels more like peer status. Less “us and them”. More “we”. Less “don’t you understand me”. More “this is who I am”. I’m excited about that.
5. My body is not what it used to be. My kids ask me who drew those silver lines on my hips. I tell them they did. I’ve been known to wear Spanx on occasion. And metabolism seems to be a four-letter word. However, even with new lines and mysterious spots showing up every now and again, I am happily relaxed in this changing skin. Not the skinniest I’ve ever been but also the least stressed. I have less control over my amorphous shape, but more control over the shape of my mind. This temple that once felt external pressure now feels more internal freedom. Less sculpting and toning and more reverently preparing a place that welcomes the presence of God.
6. Necessity is the mother of invention and reinvention is bunk. I am 40. Half-way to 80. You’re telling me I need to reinvent myself? I am likely (God-willing) half way through my life and now I need to become someone else? Popular culture suggests the person I was born to be, the person lovingly created and intricately formed in my mother’s womb is somehow not enough. Now I need to start a new hobby. Look towards a new career. Learn something new. In no way am I suggesting any of these things are bad, quite the contrary. These things, in the right context are good. If these things enhance the person God made me to be – then, good on ya. But if I am seeking any of these things in order to become someone other than who I was created to be then I am chasing dust in the wind. In some ways, I am actually just beginning to discover the me who was born 40 years ago and has developed over time. (Hopefully more like a fine wine and less like an aging cheese!)
So, this is 40.
A mysteriously Biblical number. There’s gotta be something to be said for that.
Here I go. Ready or not, here I come.
Olly, olly oxen free.
Desired emphasis on the free…