When you read the title of this post you're likely think I’m some wizened lady with lots of wisdom to dole out. I’ll ask you to hold those thoughts because I still feel like I’m growing up. As far as my faith goes, I’m a work in progress (and sometimes one in regression) and I’m not being self-effacing when I say that on a daily (if not hourly) basis, I mess up.
With those nifty caveats done and dusted, here are four life lessons that I’ve distilled down from my first year in my forties.
1. Labels belong on clothes. Not on you or me.
For years I’ve hidden behind excuses so I didn’t have to speak from a stage with a mic in hand. Butterflies. Rapid heart rate. Sweaty palms. Knocky knees. I experienced all of that - and more. “I’m a writer, not a speaker,” I would defend myself. In fact, I could have easily produced an exhaustively accurate thesis on the reasons why I ran from any speaking engagement. But in the past year, God has repeatedly reminded me that it’s not about my strengths. It’s about allowing Him to shine in and through my weaknesses. Those personality tests and colour-coded profiles are not an indicator of all that God has prepared in and through me. No, I’m still not over stage fright. But I don’t pull an Usain Bolt when I’m asked to speak because when God calls, He also equips.
2. Boxes are meant for stuff. Not for God.
Maybe, like me, you thought that God performs only mega miracles. Maybe, like me, you thought that He isn’t particularly interested in answering your silly little prayers. Maybe, like me, you decided in your head what God can or can’t do, what He specialises in and what He has amnesia about. The last year has shown me that God is not limited by my definition of Him. He is still in the mega miracle-working business – and He hears and answers our heart’s little desires when they fall in line with His plans.
3. Measurements are meant to be used by architects and designers. They are not an indicator of your worth.
By 41, I should have this ingrained in my soul, right? Not so much! This is something I need to preach to myself every single day: God assigns me my worth - not my Insta following or a number on a weighing scale or my readership on an article or how much money I make or any of the scores that the world judges us on. One minute, we can ride the wave of the world’s approval, the next we're dismissed for not making an impossibly-high standard. Instead, remember who you are in Christ. Your identity in Him is unchanging. You're His child and His treasured possession forever because of who He is and what He has accomplished on the cross.
4. Storytelling is for books. Truth-telling is for life.
All of us come with our biases and our baggage. As we get older, we tend to reinforce those same preconceptions through the stories we repeat to ourselves. Let’s say you’ve determined that your friend is being cold toward you. You’ve told yourself the story that she doesn’t like you, that you’ve offended her, that your friendship is irreparable. After that, every single time you meet, you begin to interpret her actions in the light of that story. Her smile suddenly seems fake. You think she’s purposely chosen an inconvenient location for coffee because she doesn’t really want to meet, you start casting her as some sort of Machiavellian witch. But maybe she is aloof toward you because she has a lot on her mind. Maybe she’s going through her own struggles that she is not yet ready to share with you. Challenge the story you’re telling yourself. The real truth and the imagined version of it may be diametrically different.
By no means is this an exhaustive list. And, by no means am I the right person to deliver advice. You and I are still "under construction." But we are His handiwork and Christ is the Chief Cornerstone. As we head into the next decade we get to run this race with the wonderfully freeing option of being trained by our Creator, Master Craftsman, and Life Coach.