Leaving the 20s Behind

One morning the other week I woke up with a degree of uneasiness and almost a sense of distress deep within my soul. Part of me was considering that a good screaming session might be appropriate and even cathartic. But then I realized that would require too much effort at 8 a.m., so I just decided to roll over for another five minutes in bed and try to convince myself that the day ahead would feel no different than any other. However, the fact remained that it was the last day of my 20s.

People talk of having those lists of things to do by the time they reach 30. Things like doing a parachute jump, visiting the Grand Canyon, swimming with dolphins and so on. Personally I’d always thought that was bound to set you up for failure and disappointment when 30 came and went and your list remained unchecked. I used to say I was going to dye my hair electric blue before I hit 30, but to date I’ve only managed to attain some turquoise spikes with the help of some cheap colored hair gel. The guy who trims my hair is probably quite relieved.

On the eve of my 30th, part of me was thinking that surely I should have achieved more by now. Was this it? Was my character now fully formed? Could I hope to make a significant impact on the world around me? Would there truly be no going back? Would it really all go downhill from here on out?

But then (and rather uncharacteristically for this hour of the morning) I started reflecting on the thoughts of Bono related in the recently published, Bono on Bono, and his view of our obsession with youth as “a hangover from the ’60s.” He has “always held older people to be more interesting … right through from Frank Sinatra to Willie Nelson to Johnny Cash to Balthus” and counts these "old men" among his heroes. Wisdom, grace, dignity, honesty—these are the qualities in these men which left Bono “with the most important clues on how we should live.”

And actually, I want to be like that: I want to grow old and wise, and be an "alive" old person. I want to be someone who is faithful, who stays true to her beliefs to the end. I want to be a blessing to all around me whether or not I’m stuck in a nursing home confined to my wheelchair and dependent on a nursing staff. When people look at me and the wrinkles and lines of my face, I want them to see that battles have been fought and won, that lessons have been learned, that there’s still a flame of love burning in my heart for my Heavenly Father. I don’t really fancy the part of aging where you begin to lose your faculties, but you know, maybe I can have more to give when I’m older, and not less. Maybe there is still plenty more to look forward to.

It’s kind of funny because I remember a conversation with my sister about five years ago when I started working for a Christian ministry reaching out to unchurched young people. I told her that I didn’t care if I died before 30 because at least I would have lived; I would have lived to make a difference. My life, even if short, would have had some meaning. I felt so passionate about what God had called me to at that time. In a lot of ways what I said five years ago is still true—I’m not scared of dying young, because I still feel I’ve lived a life in all its fullness with the highs and lows, joys and sorrows and breadth of experiences God gives to us. But I guess now that my third decade has drawn to a close, I just don’t want to sell myself short, I don’t want to give in to a state of mind which makes me believe I’m past my peak. I don’t want to live in fear of growing old but rather I want to look forward to the opportunities God will send my way and the contribution I can make at whatever stage in life I’m at.

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As I lay under the covers pondering these things, it struck me that this is the way God works—it’s part of who He is and what He does. He’s our Redeemer and has “rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14, TNIV). We are therefore free to walk tall into the future without our past sins dragging behind us. And because God hasn’t finished with us yet, there isn’t an age we can reach when He’ll decide to stop working within our hearts and through our lives to change the world around us. Age is no barrier to God’s redemptive purposes.

So bring it on! The best is yet to come!

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