By Beth Demme
It’s my birthday! This blog post publishes on the day I turn … wait for it … FORTY years old.
On the one hand, ugh. I’m 40.
But at the same time, I find myself thinking: “I’m 40? Wow! Time flies when you’re having fun!”
In celebration of my first forty years, I have some very random thoughts and insights neatly collected for you under just four headings, not forty. You’re welcome.
1. FORTY IS WRONG
Not the age, the word.
My daughter struggles with spelling. Working with her has helped me notice how poorly devised the English language is when it comes to sensible spelling and phonetics. I love words, but do not get me started on phonetics and phonemics!
Because English is not always sensible, I hereby declare myself to be 4T years old.
Please note this only works at certain ages (4T and 6T-9T). You can’t be 2T, 3T, 5T or 110T. Sorry, you just can’t. You can be twenty, but 2T is a clothing size, not an age. You can order tea for 110, but you can’t be 110T years old.
2. LIFE IS A STORY
No matter what age you are, you need to know you are living a story. A work of non-fiction. Please, let’s make it compelling.
I think we best understand everything as a story, including ourselves. In the process of telling our story, we figure out what we know, what we need, and who we are.
In the process we learn we are not God, which is a hugely helpful realization. We can also learn how to rely on God, an equally helpful realization.
I often ask myself, “am I living a great story?” For more on this, read Donald Miller. He gets it.
As a friend put it recently, “I don’t want to end up like the grumpy old lady shuffling around Wal-Mart yelling at children.” No, let’s not be her.
I don’t want to waste my chance to create a great story with my life.
Today I want to live a life I will celebrate tomorrow. Not one I will regret.
There are innumerable ways to live a life worth celebrating, which brings me to my next point.
3. 50 SHADES OF GREY? YES!
Not the book series (which I read) or the movie (which I haven’t seen yet), but real life. Life isn’t as simple as yes/no, black/white, or any other metaphor for dualism.
Life is many shades of grey. Or, is it gray? See point number one.
There is no formula for life. We yearn to simplify it. We desperately want to boil life down to a few bullet points or recipe instructions, but life doesn’t work this way.
If I pray a certain way and add a dash of Bible reading, then life will be grand.
If I master these top five parenting strategies, my children will be ideal.
If I learn the three keys to a happy marriage, I will never get divorced.
No, none of these! An oversimplified approach to living your life will allow you to miss the truth. Spirituality, parenting, and marriage all come back to the same foundation: Relationship.
Relationships are shady, full of maybes, trying and sometimes getting it right. Relationships involve people who, whether they realize it or not, are all trying to figure out their story. Sometimes that gets messy and rarely, if ever, can bullet points clean up the mess.
4. SPEAKING OF MESS, LET’S TALK ABOUT GOD.
God is great. More than great. God is super-awesome-amazing. God is compassionate and merciful and loving and … actually, God is indescribable.
At 4T, here’s what I know about a relationship with the indescribable God: I can tell you how it works for me, but you are the only one who knows how it will work for you.
Get up at 5am and pray from a prayer book? Yes, maybe.
Spiritual journaling or fasting? Yes, maybe.
Listen for God in meditation, yoga, or a quiet sanctuary? Yes, maybe.
Wear a cross, crucifix or crystal because it makes you feel closer to God? Yes, maybe.
Pray with your head covered? Pray barefoot? Yes, if that works for you.
State your questions, doubts, and frustrations out loud or keep them locked away in your heart? It’s up to you, but as for me, I say them out loud.
Stand on a street corner and yell to everyone driving by that God hates sin and they’re a-headin’ straight to hell? No. At 4T I’m open-minded, but I still have my limits.
What about you? What have you learned in your years? What story are you living? How do you connect with God? Have thoughts about English, phonetics or phonemics? Tell me about it in the comments, an e-mail or find me on Facebook or Twitter.
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As always you amaze me! I can tell you that without a doubt, you’ve grown so much in your wisdom and faith that it is hard to believe that you are only 4T. It has taken me 73 years and I’m still not finished, but like you, I’ll keep working on it. Life is a journey, for sure.