2015 is that year for me - the year of the milestone birthday. I am about to turn forty. And I know it is the natural progression from thirty-nine, but forty has snuck up on me. As a child I thought forty was old. Not cool. Personal chauffeur. Parent. From another lifetime. Forty was the end. Life happened and it was all downhill from there.
It is certainly not how I feel. I don't feel old. I still feel youthful. There is much life for me to live. But here it is - I am about to turn forty.
I found my first grey hairs the other day. There are more lines on my face than when I was thirty. I now have reading glasses, and when I asked the optometrist if I really needed them he replied, "You're about to hit forty. It happens."
Perhaps I am winding down.
I have watched many friends turn forty lately. Some shied away and pretended it never happened. Others embraced the reason to celebrate. And others still, booked themselves in for Botox.
Perhaps we're all winding down.
So as I muse over my coming milestone, I feel torn. Torn between two mindsets. Is forty old? Or young? Is life over? Or just beginning?
As they say, forty is the new thirty.
But I don't know. There is something about that statement that does not sit right with me.
In the first-world we live longer, and positive lifestyle choices make us stronger. We are better informed and capable of achieving higher in many facets of life. Health issues that affected a forty-year-old post-WWII, for example, are not the same as health issues affecting most forty-year-olds today. Many experience greater career satisfaction, earn more money, and are in stable relationships at forty. Happiness and satisfaction replace insecurities of the past. Life can be great at forty.
But "forty is the new thirty" carries pressure. Pressure to turn back the clock. Pressure to regain youthfulness of ten years ago. Pressure to think, look and act like you're thirty, when you're forty.
And this age pressure doesn't just apply to forty; others are getting on the bandwagon. "Sixty is the new forty," said Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Julie Bishop, in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald. I can't help but wonder if God told Abraham, "Abe, you're about to have a son. But don't worry, one-hundred is the new thirty."
Why do we look at age as something to be ashamed of when the Bible says it is a crown of glory (Proverbs 16:31)? My youth is renewed through the blessing of the Lord (Psalm 103:5), not a flux capacitor (you have to be forty to get that reference). Waiting on the Lord renews my strength (Isaiah 40:31), not a miracle pill. I will run and not grow weary when I leave behind fantasies of the past, and reach forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13).
I choose to embrace my age. Thirty was great, but there are hairstyles and faux pas I'd rather forget. I am thrilled with the things that happened in my life this decade: I fell in love, got married, had children, bought my first home; it was amazing. I am happier and fitter - or at least just as fit - as I was a decade ago. Yeah, I've got grey hairs and I "need" reading glasses. But what I don't need is to compete with the beauty and vigor of a twenty-something. I have life experience. I have confidence.
I don't want to be twenty. I don't want to be thirty. I want to be who I am now. I want to rise to the challenge of whatever life throws at me. Caleb and Joshua conquered cities. Moses climbed mountains. Abraham fathered children. Anna prophesied. Lois paved the way for her grandson. Sarah had a baby. Deborah commanded battle. Jacob wrestled with God. John had visions of heaven.
Surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1), what will I do? Everyday of life is a new beginning, and I will face each day with this optimism as long as I still have breath. I've got too many items on my bucket-list to give up now.
There's nothing wrong with being forty, or fifty, or seventy. Forty is the new forty. This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and run our race.
Publication date: March 26, 2015