I remember being told what happens to your body as you approach forty. My friends who are further along in the aging process complained about it. For one, extra weight stays around longer despite your efforts to lose it, which means you can no longer eat whatever you want. Don’t think about staying up to two o’clock in the morning watching a movie or reading that favorite novel. It will take you days to recover. Your hands get dry, small print gets harder to read, skin starts to sag, and suddenly you find yourself not remembering an aunt’s name.
Reading this makes you want to go into full-on depression, doesn’t it?
“Just wait!” my friends told me as they complained. I smiled, nodded my head, and thought to myself, “That will never happen to me.”
Then my late-thirties crept up on me, and I noticed subtle changes starting with my energy level. My circumstances are different from many women my age because I do have a two-year-old and I am pregnant with my second baby. So I blamed it on wrangling babies.
However, my younger friends who have small children didn’t seem to have this problem to the extent I do. I have come to the realization that my forty-something friends were right – my body is changing.
But my body’s not the only part of me that’s changing. My thoughts about life are too.
Turning Older: No Regrets
When I turned thirty I was on top of the world. I looked forward to the next decade because of the possibilities it held for me. I wasn’t married at the time, so there was the continued hope for marriage. Also, the stereotypes people give twenty-somethings would be in the past. I would be taken seriously for the first time. I would be a woman.
Turning thirty didn’t cause me to question my life, where I had been and where I was going. It didn’t make me fear not having enough time to do all that I wanted to do in this life. Nor did I regret the time I had wasted. I didn’t look around and wish I were the twenty-eight-year-old who had gone further, faster than me. I didn’t feel the need to repent for not taking advantage of every opportunity I had been given.
As I enter the last year of my thirties, these thoughts bombard my mind. There are a lot of “Why’s?”, “Why not’s?”, “What if’s”? and “If only’s . . . ” Regret and comparison create in me a fatalistic reality. I feel like I’m too old, and it’s too late.
Our culture adds to this reality. The media would have us believe there is little good about getting older. Youth, beauty, and vitality are celebrated and preserved. Age is pitied. Whatever you hope to accomplish in life, you better accomplish when you’re young.
But as I approach these middle years of my life, there’s another perspective I can choose. It is one that values the gift of time I have on earth, not just my time as a young woman, but my time as a middle-aged and older woman, too, because in God’s economy time sees eternity.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
Our Bodies Weaken But Our Souls Strengthen
At the beginning of our lives our bodies are full of strength and our souls are unwise and careless. But as we age our bodies and souls change places. Our bodies become weak, but our souls continue to grow in the knowledge and wisdom of God by being renewed each day. This is what carries us into our ultimate renewal – our glorification in heaven. The world’s view of aging is fatalistic because the end of life is just that – fatal. But for a Christian, the end of life is only a continuation of a life already begun – eternal.
As I approach these middle years of my life, it is easy to let comparison and regret paralyze me from making goals and having dreams. I can spend my time soaking in the questions of yesterday. But what a waste of a renewed mind that would be. What I have now that I didn’t have in my twenties and thirties is perspective, maturity, and experience. I have wisdom.
It’s as if the purpose of the first half of a person’s life is to create stories, and the second half is to tell them. The second half is the legacy-building years.
Making Your Legacy-Building Years Count
Viewing the later years as legacy-building years gives them even more purpose than those ambitious, determined, full-of-life years. The legacy-building years change generations and affect eternity.
Recently I was talking to my friend about these legacy-building years. She commented that she’s observed people becoming weary in the second half of life, obviously physically but also emotionally and spiritually. She said that it’s not that they’re no longer faithful, but they just get worn-down from life and start looking towards heaven.
In some ways I can relate to how this happens. I’m much more aware of the harshness of life than I was ten years ago. But knowing that these are years I have to imprint the next generation makes me more determined to stay healthy, physically and emotionally. That might mean to get help from a counselor to heal from the past, conquer strongholds, and overcome habits. It for sure means I pray fervently.
The Bible encourages us to not grow weary, but to run our race of life to the very end.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” Hebrews 12:1-4
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
The legacy-building years cannot be wasted. As I look into my young child’s eyes I realize that I do not have time to grow weary. Now that I have started seeing my forties with such purpose, I am determined to make them count.
Brenda Rodgers considers herself a “recovering single” after years as a single woman chasing after marriage instead of chasing after Jesus. Now her passion is to mentor young women to live purposefully and grow in their relationship with God and others. Brenda has been married for five years to a heart transplant hero and is the mom of a toddler girl miracle. She is also the author of the eBook Fall for Him: 25 Challenges from a Recovering Single. You can also read more on Brenda’s blog, www.TripleBraidedLife.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.