A few days ago, I celebrated my 50th birthday. Actually, celebrate isn’t an accurate word for it. Dread is a better description of what I experienced. I had a difficult time seeing the end of my 40’s approach. I’m not sure what it was, but the thought of being 50 years old really threw me off. I was depressed. And I didn’t feel that I had accomplished as much as I wanted to by this stage of my life.
This was definitely my hardest birthday so far. Some people struggle with turning 30 but it was easy for me because I got married that year. My husband and I were floating on air as we got to know each other and planned our lives together.
Turning 40 can be difficult as well for some people but that wasn’t too bad for me, either. My boys were young and I was busy. I didn’t have much time to sit around and think about myself. That birthday came and went without too much fanfare.
But turning 50 was a different story altogether. I only have a couple of years left with my boys at home, my body is changing dramatically at this stage of life, and I have a lot more time to get wrapped up in my own thoughts. Put it all together and it’s the recipe for a perfect storm.
Struggling With Middle Age
For the last few months, I’ve been struggling with my own mortality and the difference between where I am and where I thought I would be at this stage of my life. Facing the fact that my life is almost certainly more than halfway done has been disturbing to me.
Fortunately, I have an amazing friend who is just a few months older than I am who has been a huge encouragement. The last time I was sharing my heart with her and telling her how lost I felt she told me these wise words:
“Sorry you’re depressed, but I’m not sure what you think you need to figure out. You’re one of the most successful people I know. You got married, STAYED married, had kids, stayed home to raise and school them, and have a business on the side. What more is there to figure out? ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.’ So, God thinks you’re doing great, would be my bet.”
Her words were a balm to my soul. I may not be where I thought I would be at this stage of my life but I don’t have to have done anything extraordinary to have lived a life worth living.
Embracing Who I Am
Ironically, last Sunday’s sermon talked about that very thing. Our pastor reminded us that Jesus is the one who gives meaning to our lives. No matter how much we do or don’t accomplish in this life, our value is in Christ. He said that our value is fixed. It can’t get any higher or lower no matter what we do or don’t do.
As children, we are told over and over how special we are. So, we expect to do great things with our lives. And then, we reach middle age and we look around to see a seemingly mediocre life and wonder what went wrong. But he said that everything we do in life counts. Doing the laundry, taking care of our family, and being easy to live with is as important to God as standing at the pulpit preaching a sermon.
We may long to do something more significant while we are cleaning up cat puke or scrubbing the toilet but God cares about all of the ways we serve Him, no matter how great or small. Being a mom is often a thankless job. Until our kids become parents themselves, they don’t fully appreciate the sacrifices we’ve made for them. Many of the tasks we do on a regular basis go unnoticed by our families, which can make it seem as though what we’re doing doesn’t matter. But God sees them.
Colossians 3:23 says, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”
God was using the pastor and my friend to remind me that all the seemingly small things I have done in my life add up to something pretty great. Rather than fixating on the things I once thought I would achieve in this world, I must remember to meditate on who I am in Christ.
I am loved.
I am created in His image.
I am forgiven.
I am chosen.
I am a child of the King.
Embracing Where I Am
Even though I’m officially middle-aged, I need to remember that being 50 doesn’t necessarily mean I’m approaching the end of my life. I’m somewhere in the middle. God could choose to give me many more years to do many more things for Him and for my family.
I need to embrace my age and this phase which is filled with so many transitions. Yes, some chapters of my life are coming to an end but that means many new chapters are just beginning. Rather than mourning the endings it’s time to turn the page and see what kinds of new adventures God has in store during this next stage of life.