Last week I turned 41 years old! On this journey, I’ve begun to practice aging gracefully. I’m not going to lie: it’s been hard. Not only is the jump to the big 4-0 finished, I now have to concede to being solidly in my forties.
But, can I admit something? I’ve never felt better. Maybe not physically (trips to the gym hurt a lot more than they did a scant five years ago) but inside there is a peace and a confidence there that I used to only pretend existed.
I’ve learned a few lessons, that, I believe, have made the step into my forties a whole lot easier. Even if your next milestone is 30 or even 25, aging gracefully can be difficult, so I say learn these lessons now and save yourself some grief.
Here are 5 Lessons that Make Aging Gracefully, easier:
Lesson One to Aging Gracefully: The Reflection in the Mirror Does Not Tell the Whole Story
The evil stepmother from Snow White and I have a bit in common. I wanted to see the fairest of them all when I looked into that mirror. But, instead, that piece of glass always told me that there was someone prettier out there and that I should do better.
For decades the way I saw myself in that mirror each morning dictated the way I felt all day long. As I look back on all that time wasted, stressing over a few extra pounds, uncooperative hair, or a pimple on my chin that felt as big as Mt. Everest, I think: What a waste!
I felt that my value was inextricably linked to the way that mirror said I looked. And, yet, for the majority of my relationships, the way my outsides presented were secondary to everything else I had to offer. I bought Satan’s lie that love would not come unless I wore a certain size and had a polished exterior.
The faster we women can identify this lie and free ourselves from it, the more enjoyable life here becomes and the easier it is to find ourselves aging gracefully.
Lesson Two to Aging Gracefully: “I Don’t Know” is a Healthy Position
Recently, a mother of one child–under the age of two–told me exactly how she’d handle a situation in my life. I wanted to get mad, but instead I kind of had to laugh, thinking, she has absolutely no idea what it’s like to have older children, yet alone four of them! I remembered what a marriage expert I was…until I had a husband. And, what a parenting expert I was…until I had a child. And, extended some grace her direction. I had a lot to learn, and she does too!
We live in the age of information, where if you don’t know something you find out by simply asking Siri. But, friends, I think our access to information makes us crazy prideful and this hurts our relationships–including our relationship with God. It’s the fool who pretends to know it all. The older I get, the more I realize the tremendous value of not knowing and resting in that. My value is not determined by my status as an expert in my life…or in anyone else’s.
Aging gracefully means appreciating the fact that we are all on different journeys, trying to run our own races. Free yourself from having an opinion on anyone else’s pace. You don’t know. And that’s okay.
Lesson Three to Aging Gracefully: Futility Comes From Pursuing My Own Agenda
Birthdays used to depress me. I felt as if they were missed deadlines every. single. year. I “hoped” to have “this” done by the time I turned . . . And, if that extra ten pounds lingered or I hadn’t started that new diligent exercise routine by the time my birthday came around, I felt defeated.
Defeat led to despair that I’d never get any better and never accomplish my goals. That despair lead to depression. Life would never change because I couldn’t get any better. I was stuck.
What I could not see was how chasing my own agenda always leads to futility and despair. It’s only when I can rest in the fact that God has a purpose for my life that the despondency lifts. Futility can only exist in the context of vanity.
If you are chasing your own will–for your own sake–it will always feel like you aren’t accomplishing enough, fast enough. When you pursue God’s purpose, that sense of futility dissipates and aging gracefully comes in its place.
Lesson Four to Aging Gracefully: Self-Focus Always Feels Empty
I’m weary of reading that the answer to your body image and comparison issues is to just love yourself. Friends, self-love is code for vanity.
You don’t have to have pride in who you are or what you look like. Self-focus will always leave us wanting more. We find freedom not through loving what we’ve got, but through loving the One who made us. We find a way out of our body image and comparison bondage not through thinking we are pretty great, but through acknowledging that He who is in us is awesome, and He’s all we need.
Our greatness matters little. And, frankly, wanes every time we do something human. Only His greatness endures. We need our esteem rooted in Christ, not in self. When our value is linked to God and not the way our body looks, aging gracefully is that much easier.
Lesson Five to Aging Gracefully: I Am Not Too Much, Nor Am I Enough
I just saw a t-shirt that said, “More Issues than Vogue” and it made me sad because I used to feel like that. Often I felt so overwhelmed by “all of my issues” that I knew I was “too much” for anyone to truly love or understand. The enemy told me that no one would ever be able to handle someone as messed up as me. I felt alone and frustrated. How could I ever change enough for someone to not be completely scared off by the real me? Aging gracefully was impossible with this mindset.
The answer: I had to recognize that, although I felt like I was too much, in truth I was not enough. I get a little bothered when Christians chant “You are enough” because it’s so contrary to scripture. I’m not enough. I need Jesus. I’m really nothing without him but a weak sinner prone to self-focus and failure as I pursue my own will. It’s only through Christ that I have strength. It’s only through Him that I am able to find victory and peace and freedom.
I’m not enough, nor am I too much. I’m His servant, perfectly designed for His purpose and able to accomplish His will only through complete submission to Him. This submission gives us all the freedom to finally let go and ease into aging gracefully.
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This is such a great reminder. I have been reminded over and over again lately (umm…I think God might want to get this lesson through my thick skull!) that the less I am focused on me (in the positive or the negative) the greater my joy will be. When I turn my eyes to Him and only seek His approval, I can move mountains (with His help). It’s when I am too busy pondering how so-and-so might feel about this or that and what they might think of me that I get all caught up, trip over my feet, and go nowhere. Here’s to learning to let go of ourselves and hold onto Him!
Yes, that’s great wisdom there Summer! Thanks for your comment! The freedom is in self-forgetfulness!
“We find freedom not through loving what we’ve got, but through loving the One who made us.”
Thanks, Karen! 🙂
Thank you for the reminder that we serve a wonder-full God who isn’t through growing us until He calls us home — I am a wee bit beyond 41 — but you sure said well life sustaining hope that is the lesson I am learning: If you have a pulse, you have a purpose! (Paul, Newman that is)
Thanks! That’s a great quote!!