Forty

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalms 73:23-26

I enjoy being forty. I know that sounds crazy, especially in our youth-worshiping culture where Botox and hair dye have all but become rites of passage for women, but it is absolutely true. It isn’t that I’m excited about all the changes in my body or all the gray in my hair… that is, “excited” is not precisely the word I would use. However, I can honestly say that I am grateful for this time of my life, even thankful for some of the more negative effects of age.

I do have my share of age-related maladies, but I will spare you the list. My reason for writing today is not to gripe about the miseries of age, but to offer praise to my God. I also desire to give you a peek inside the growing portion of my heart that is no longer upset by the obliteration of my youth; the part that welcomes the autumn years.

Day by day, with each new wrinkle and each handful of hair I clean from my hairbrush, I am able to praise the Giver of all good gifts for what He is doing in my heart and my flesh.  In this, my day, the sun has passed its zenith. Lord willing, it will have slow descent before the sunset of my life, but be it swift or slow, I will praise Him for the process. As I look back at my fading youth, I do not feel sorrow nor a sense of loss; I feel a rising hope and a certainty of renewal. I look forward to see what colors the Lord will paint into the close of my day; what glory will be revealed before my light winks out here only to rise in the morning of eternal joy at His side.

You see, for me there is something in the aging process that is liberating. To know that I can never recapture the looks of my youth is not cause for despair. It is a fading of vanity, a chance to say a graceful farewell to that part of my life and welcome with joy a new season. As my rebelling body requires me to abstain from more and more favorite foods, I feel the allure of this world’s pleasures weakening and slipping away.  And so, when I wake stiff and sore or find a new gray hair in the mirror, it is not decay I see and feel; is it the loosening of bonds. It is the birth pains that will lead to joy. It is freedom.

More importantly, it is a chance to let God be master of my life. As each passing year slips away, with each new reminder that youth is a thing of the past, I am reminded that this world–the physical, material world I can see and touch–will not endure. All of it changes, some parts quickly, some more slowly, but all things are subject  to the relentless onslaught of Time. … all, that is, but what He is doing within me; reshaping me into His image; refining and pruning away what is useless so that when my time comes to fly away from this old clay pot and be clothed in what is eternal, I will be ready. He is preparing my heart for an eternity of praise by teaching me to find joy and praise even in the unappealing process of growing old.

This is why I am so thankful as I age. For with each passing year, I grow closer to my King, walk more fully in His presence. Each new sign of age is a blessing, for it reminds me of what is important–and of what is not. It is a continual reminder that, while the outer self is wasting away, the inner self is being renewed day by day. So I am deeply, truly thankful for the decline of my youth.  It frees me more and more to focus less on myself and more on the goodness and wonder of my God!

So my brothers and sisters, let’s make an effort today not to complain about those pesky thorns of age, but to thank God for the opportunity for our preoccupation with ourselves to decrease and request that our fascination of Him will increase. How do you feel about each new decade?

 

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