An older friend once told me that most of what you learn in your twenties and thirties won’t help you at all throughout the decades to follow. I didn’t believe her for a minute, but I’m beginning to realize she was right.
I blew out candles on a cake reading, “Fabulous at 40” last month. I don’t always feel fabulous these days, and the tiny lines at the corners of my eyes are more obvious than they were ten years ago. But I’ve learned a lot throughout the past ten years. Some part of me wishes I’d known what I know now 10 years ago.
Here are a few lessons I wish I’d learned any way other than the hard way:
1. Break Up With Hurry Right Now
I spent most of my twenties in a hurry. I rushed to my job as a high school teacher every morning. Every evening I hurried from work to attend student sporting events or youth events at the church where I was a volunteer.
I gave birth to our first child a few months before my thirtieth birthday, and my commitment to hurry held strong. As I adjusted to life with a newborn, I hurried to accomplish as much as possible every minute our baby girl didn’t need to be in my arms.
I felt like a rock star.
I was also exhausted, and I didn’t realize I was missing the most precious moments of my life.
Do you feel like your days consist of hustling from one event to the next with little time to breathe? It might feel like hurrying is making your life full, but sadly, the opposite is true.
Look at your life. Have your best moments been your hurried moments? The moment you make up your mind to break up with hurry, you step into a deeper, richer, more powerful way of being.
2. Aim to Live Present Over Productive
My addiction to hurry robbed me from a life of encountering God in my ordinary moments and cherishing my loved ones. We think we’re making an impact on the world when we chase production and achievement. It feels good to cross tasks off our lists and keep a productive pace. Sadly, we can’t chase a present life when productivity is an idol.
I wish someone would have told me to let go of my lists and fully attend to my loved ones.
I wish I would have spent less time filling my social schedule to the brim. I certainly would have spent less of my thirties barking orders and losing my patience when everyone in my life didn’t immediately keep my pace. I would have lived with far less grit and a lot more grace.
3. The Most Powerful Platform Is the Space Where Others Know They Belong
I wish I could say I’ve never been sucked into the dopamine-rush that comes when a social media post that goes viral. I also wish I’d spent less time chasing a career and more time creating spaces in real-time where other people know they belong.
The people around you crave a safe space to open up about their struggles and be real about what’s happening in the hard parts of life. You will live life to the fullest when you learn to create the kind of space where others know they are accepted without conditions – just as they are.
4. Pain Is Often a Direct Answer to Prayer
I walked through some dark valleys in my thirties. I struggled with chronic illness that knocked me off my feet for full seasons of life. People I loved let me down. My heart was broken. I faced fears for my kids and fears about my future.
You will face pain throughout your next decade too. Make up your mind to ask this question when life gets hard: God, how are you using this hard season to answer my prayers for transformation into your image?
He will show you. He will shape you. Your role is to stay malleable in his hand. He will help you with this too.
5. Circumstantial Hope Will Let You Down
The most powerful lesson of my thirties came when our family walked through the darkest valley. We were in the thick middle of our pain, and all I wanted to do was fix what felt broken. Much to my surprise, the gentle invitation from the Lord was this: Don’t put your hope in fixing your circumstances; put your hope in Jesus’ presence with you in the middle of your hard circumstances.
This perspective-shift changed everything about our journey through grief and sadness. It will change your journey too. God isn’t calling you to put your hope in fixing what feels broken in your life. Some broken parts can only be fixed by His hand. Put your hope in the reality that His hand has not abandoned you. His presence goes with you.
I step cautiously into this next decade with gray hairs sprouting at my temples. And this is my prayer: For an open heart and open hands to receive all God has to offer through this next leg of the journey.
Stacey is a lover of the woods, a passionate and imperfect follower of Christ, the mother of three blue-eyed children, the wife of Darrell, and much more. She writes words about her walk of faith in the in-between moments, and she mentors and teaches the Bible to younger women.