I’m 40 today.
I’m not afraid of the number, nor am I disgusted by being this age. I’ve always been an old soul who enjoys simple things and as far as I’m concerned, laugh lines are a history of many laughters and forgetfulness is the result of a brain full of fantastic memories, so I’ll take these as gifts. And anyhow, I said goodbye to a friend just a few months ago, and although I don’t believe I was ever one to take life for granted, it’s less likely I’d be able to now without being reminded it’s a privilege growing older.
Birthdays are good days for reflection – on a year, on a season, on the interesting timeline of twists and turns that one calls their life. When I look at mine, I’m thankful. More than markers for a span of time, many of my birthdays are bookends, and in between are the volumes of a soul searching for God in certain places only to find Him somewhere I wouldn’t have expected. These are stories in pictures rather than words, in a song rather than a telling. There really isn’t a way to explain God experiences other than in musical poetry that opens and lilts, but never closes. I mean, to go searching for God and find Him is a story that ends with another beginning. Am I right?
A few days before my 18th birthday I stood at the side of the road answering questions for a police report. I’d pleaded with God for months, asking my boyfriend’s heart might be changed by my birthday, but instead, he’d left me at the side of the road in a banged up car and a very pregnant belly. A friend had recently overheard a girl in her class forecasting my degenerate future – “Did you hear Michelle’s pregnant? She’s going to end up on welfare in a trailer park.” – and I’d shrugged it off because what did she know of my future? But police reports and hit and run accidents and questions about domestic violence sounded like the dismal ‘once upon a time’ story I wasn’t willing to live, so I went into single motherhood without a clue as to what my future might look like, but knowing full well it wouldn’t include abuse and addiction and promise after empty promise.
And God saw me there, forgotten at the side of the road. He saw me in the delivery room, eating my lunch alone, fighting the urge and instinct to imagine what it might be like to be one of two parents hovering over the tiny person sleeping in the bassinet, making all the observations two parents make when studying their cells amalgamated into one new life. Sometimes you just need a God who will help you forget, so you can see all the other good things He provides – like impossible safety and incredible opportunities, and the love of family and friends.
On my 22nd birthday, the guy on one knee was taking quite a risk asking a girl he’d known for 3 months to be his wife. I was taking an equally big risk saying yes, but he loved me with the kind of love that let me be me (which is the best kind of love, if you ask me) and he loved my daughter as if he’d been curiously restless since the day she was born until the day he met her and it all made sense. We exchanged vows the next month, but no lawyer in town would do a legal ad adoption. I told them I wasn’t asking anyone’s permission to put a name in the blank ‘father’s name’ space on my daughter’s birth certificate, because blank spaces unpursued indicate invisible people and invisible help and I wouldn’t waste questions on answers I didn’t need.
And God provided. He sent a patent lawyer who had no reservations about legal ads and rights and signatures that technically aren’t needed at all, and the process was nearly a year long, but a few weeks before kindergarten, my daughter’s last name was legal. Yesterday was ‘National Adoption Day’ – another day to be thankful.
I was pregnant on a few birthdays, held babies on other birthdays – more grace, more abundance from the God who gives both and is both. There was a house contract written the day after my birthday and One More Truth came to life the week before another birthday, confirmation that God is the God of surprises and the completely unexpected. ‘Things can change in a day,’ He’s reminded me on crushing days. The better news, of course, is His faithfulness never changes.
The God of the Old Testament was God among His people – in a temple, in a cloud, in fire. The Savior of the New Testament is ‘God with us’, and when He sent His Spirit, we were given the privilege of accepting God in us. Throughout Scripture, there is one promise: when we search for God wholeheartedly, we find Him, and find He isn’t far off.
What can I expect in the year ahead? I’m not certain. Whatever I find myself doing, I know for Whom I’ll be doing it, and perhaps this more than age or knowledge or success is the best measure of where I’ve been or where I’m going. Perhaps when we speak of a person’s authenticity, we’re referring to their song. I pray mine is a song of overwhelming thankfulness.
So looking behind and looking ahead, I expect one thing for this year of 40: God will be there, and so will His goodness.