Inspiration, Encouragement & Instructions
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
Thirty-Seven, the New Seventeen
A birthday reflection to inspire you to embrace your years ahead with hope, truth, and trust.
Forest Gump is known for saying, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.” Which is in so many ways true. Yet, in other ways misses the truth of the fact that the choices we make, the behaviors we continue in, the beliefs we align our hearts and minds with build a life pointed in a direction.
Today, I turned 37. I am fairly confident that I am one of the least sentimental women on the planet. Not because I am heartless. I will cry at a Hallmark movie like the rest of them. But I honestly don’t spend much time pondering the past. I am more of a present and future kind of girl.
What are we doing now? What are we doing next?
But sometimes. . . I look back on certain seasons of my life and crave a return to a seemingly simpler time. College, for example, new friends, loads of learning, adult-like freedom in the safety-net of parents to go home to or call on when the bank account was lower than the textbook fees. There was stress, but there was loads of laughter, growth and the big dreams being fulfilled one semester at a time.
And then there were the years Mike and I spent living and doing ministry in South Korea. What was to be a 2-year get-a-away adventure, turned into 7-years of falling in love with a culture, a place and a way of life immersed in relational and academic ministry. It too was stressful at times, but our lives over-flowed with opportunities to impact and be impacted, to give and be provided for, to run hard and rest well.
What I relish about these seasons, when I put on my rose-colored glasses, is that they were busy, robust, and purpose was obvious and expected. The expectations were not necessarily crystal clear, but the general direction and the markers of progress and feedback were set on a schedule that correlated with the school year. Even in the chaos, there was rhythm--push hard, rest, push hard, rest.
Secondly, I look back and see a me that was confident in what I was called to do, where I was called to live, and how I was to move forward from month to month. Some may compare this to living in your sweet spot--walking out the future you imagined and worked hard to get to.
Those seasons seem long ago. A lot of life has infiltrated the years since then. I have wrestled with God. I have changed jobs nearly every year for six years. I have wandered, dabbled, explored, and pursued. I have been needy and met needs. I have succeeded in somethings and failed in others. I have attained goals and faced disappointments. I have obeyed and experienced blessings. I have disobeyed and found grace. I have questioned my purpose and also defined it. And in it all, I have seen God work in me, around me and even through me.
And today I arrive on this day of my birth and I feel so much more like a seventeen-year-old than a mother of four, a wife of nearly 15 years, or an “experienced” Christ-follower. There are many things I am more certain of than I was when I was 17: who I love, and who loves me, who I am and who I am not, God’s sovereignty and grace, what I have to prove and what I don’t need to worry about.
But like a seventeen-year-old, I honestly am stumped by what it means to plan for the future. What is coming? How do I know what is the “right” path for the next season? How do I take all this knowledge of who I am, what my gifts are, and the need in the world around me and know with absolute certainty the next move in the game?
What am I doing with my life?
Or perhaps, the question I am really wrestling with is: What are you doing with my life, God? What are you up to? Could you clue me in down here? A 10-step plan to the future you have for me would be a beautiful birthday gift.
The quagmire of the unknown, how am I still walking in that at this age? I thought I did that already. A few times, actually. Did I just spend 20 years walking in a giant proverbial circle?
No. I know I have moved along the continuum of birth to death. The wrinkles on my face and the gray hair on my head a testament to that! Yet, I feel smaller than I used to. I feel less sure of somethings than I used to. I feel moved less easily. I feel the path I am walking is less defined and bumpier.
And then, I lift my head out of my feelings. And I remember that no matter how unsteady this life feels, I am tied to a steady God. No matter how unknown the future looks, I am tethered to the all-knowing one. No matter how confused I am about what I am supposed to be doing with this gifts and abilities set into me before the beginning of time, I am wrapped up in the arms of the one who sees me.
Right here. Right now. Right in this space between being young and moving toward old.
And I feel him gently placing his mighty but gentle hand underneath my chin, and lifting my head, looking into my eyes and staying,
“Steady on dear one. Steady on. I know where we are going. Do you trust me? I believe in you. Do you believe in me? Keep lifting your eyes up and moving forward. You aren’t strong enough to do this on your own, or powerful enough to mess up my plans for you. Don’t look down. Keep looking up. Keep moving forward--toward me.”
This intimate God who draws me out of myself. Who pulls me into the cleft of his wing. I realize in these moments of his gentle voice whispering to my quivering and restless soul, that even though I feel lost and young, my relationship with my heavenly Father is deeper, richer and more rooted than it was 20 years ago.
My peace in the unknown is more vast. My trust in his promises stronger. My confidence in his goodness bolder.
You know, maybe this aging thing isn’t so bad. Sure, I am more prone to injury than I used to be. Yes, I am frustrated that I can’t live on some kind of mapped out auto-pilot purpose. Certainly, I wish I felt like I had more clarity and specifics at this stage in the game.
But I have Jesus. I have freedom. I have hope. I have a future.
I am seen. I am loved.
And I am not in charge.
If age has taught me one thing, it has taught me that believing I am not in charge is full of freedom and peace. This lesson has perhaps been the greatest gift of all my years; To know and believe that each year behind and ahead of me are in the hands of a creative, loving and God who rescues and redeems every moment of my life for his glory and his divine purposes. All of which reach beyond my wildest dreams and imagination.
We are all moving along on a life journey. We all had a start. We will all meet a final destination. And all of life is lived in the in-between. Though we don’t always know what we are going to get, we can choose to believe that even when our life sinks into a season like a chocolate filled with the least desirable imitation flavoring, God will never spit us out. Nor is he disgusted with us or surprised by our circumstances because his vision is clear, his plans good, and his purposes perfect.
No matter the year I turn, or the experiences that make up the days between each one, I pray I will never forget these truths. I pray the same would be true for you too.
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Her family and friends know her as, Jaci. She is the wife of a pastor, a mom of four, writing and communications education instructor, a visionary and an avid runner. As a firm believer in the power and effectiveness of the body of Christ united together to live out the Great Commission, she holds fast to this verse, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). Of equal importance to her are these words, "...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).
Posts in the Run for Your Life, series: