I turned 40 this summer. It was a bigger deal than I expected. Not the actual birthday. We had just moved to Wisconsin so there was no big party and the birthday weekend away with my husband turned into a family getaway when our babysitting plans fell through. I'm not complaining because it really was a nice birthday full of reminders of how blessed my life has been and how loved I am, something I often forget.
All I'm saying is that the actual turning 40 was a rather quiet affair. But the being 40, now that one is hitting me harder than I expected. Mostly because my body is proving how old it is and more importantly how poorly I have taken care of it in the last decade or two. But I am also remembering how old 40 seemed when I was 20 and even 30 and know that I am now old. Or at least old enough to no longer be considered young.
Yeah, I know 40 is the new 30 and 60 the new 40 but that's just because we have access to better medical care, hair coloring and denial.
I'm not saying it's all downhill from here because there are some great things about aging.
I really am more comfortable in my skin and less concerned with how others view me. I can be my own person now without feeling a need to explain or defend or even worse - prove I'm right.
My kids are old enough now to all go to school, to make their own lunches, tie their own shoes, go to timeout when sent and leave me alone when I am going to the bathroom. They can sit quietly in a waiting room and I don't have to lug around a huge bag of snacks and diapers and entertainment devices. The boys are old enough to carry their own heavy bags and to even roll my carry on through the airport for me.
I have had enough bad things happen to myself and those around me to have gained a little perspective. I guess I could use those experiences to become scared of everything, and I definitely have a healthy respect for the hard things that could happen, but mostly those experiences have taught me to keep walking forward, to remember all the times that God has taken care of me even in ways I did not appreciate at the time, to know that it is a season.
The main thing I have discovered though as I have hit middle aged is that I want to err on the side of grace in all things.
Life is more grey than I could ever understand in my teens and 20s, something I discovered in my 30s. Truth with a capital T is hard enough to define for myself much less for someone else. Stories have layers and sides to their telling. I know so much less with certainty these days but I hold tightly to that which I do know to be true for me.
So while I know less, I love more.
More because I don't have to be right. I don't have to make others conform to my understanding of the rules of life. Grace allows me to see the grey - to know that God is at work in this world apart from me having to understand it.
More because I have comfortable enough and even bored enough with my own life to be genuinely interested in those around me. I am free to love my friends just as they are, to learn from them, and to see life differently through their eyes.
More because I have chosen to be okay with the unknown, with the not knowing it all, with grace. I have found comfort in the disequilibrium caused by not knowing. There is something calming about letting go of control, a false sense of it really, and going with the flow.
And more because I am more able to live in the moment. As you face down the second half of your life, you really do want to enjoy the here and now because the finish line is coming more clearly into view. Hopefully still a very distant, distant sight way, way, way far away but I can still catch a glimpse of it.
I'm not writing all this to say that turning 40 was some profound experience. It really wasn't.
I'm just saying that as you get older I think you get to choose whether you want to get stuck in your ways, becoming the old man yelling on the kids to stay off your grass, or you can recognize the big wide world for what it is - more than we can ever truly understand - and choose grace.
I choose grace.