Putting Age in Perspective

An acquaintance of mine recently asked a group of women that I'm a part of if we ever felt like the best years of my life were behind us... she is struggling with transition issues (children growing older, changing her "roles" in life, etc.).

Here is how I responded:
There's a book I've been reading, called "The Best Half of Life" by Ray & Anne Ortlund... and in it, Anne talks a lot about how the last half of our life can be our most useful and joyful half, if we are purposeful and see the hope in it. I am already beginning to adjust my mind to thinking this way-- not that NOW is the "time of my life" (which is what our culture SCREAMS at us), because I'm still in my 20's... but that my usefulness and joyful service will not run out until my life does. That the last half of my life (which, according to the world, should be filled with maladies, medicines, depression, and a critical, unsatisfied spirit which always talks about "the good old days") will be even better, even more useful, even more fulfilling, and even more effective for the Kingdom, as was the first half of my life. And then I will hope to hear those sweet words, "well done, good and faithful servant."

Something she (Anne Ortlund) wrote has really stuck with me. She said her life verse is Proverbs 4:18- "The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn; it shines brighter and brighter until full day"... she prays that God will make her life like that... never diminishing or becoming less bright... but that her life will continually burn brighter and brighter until she burns out, at which point she'll be in His presence.

That's something that resonates with my heart- maybe it will with yours too.

This is something that has been on my mind a lot lately- - how unaware we are of the way our culture lies to us, telling us that the best years of our lives are those when we are most foolish and clueless about life. NO- Christian woman! Don't buy into the lie. The best years of our lives are to come... the best years, when we are most wise, most experienced, and can be used for the Kingdom of God in the most fine-tuned way are AHEAD of us!

Part of the problem is that it is ingrained into us to only think of the present-- to "live in the now". And while it's true that we do need to be focused on usefulness and spiritual growth today, we also need to balance that out with verses like James 4:14, "What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." We need to recognize how quickly life passes... and learn from those who have gone before us. If life indeed passes quickly, then I don't want to make the foolish mistake of being entirely wrapped up in the "now".

See, I'm 28 right now. Many of you are in different places, age-wise. But here's the deal: I could spend the next couple of birthdays lamenting the loss of my youth... then in ten years, do that again, and then in ten years, go through it once again. I'm not suggesting that there won't be any adjusting to seeing a different number on the page when I write my age. Nor am I making light of the wrinkles and sags that I'll undoubtedly find multiplied on my body twenty years from now. Nor am I minimizing the true biological and hormonal changes that women of various ages have to adjust to.

But what I AM saying is this: I want to age gloriously. I want to burn brighter and brighter, like Proverbs says. I want to delight in the fact that I am closer to meeting my Savior, and that I am (prayerfully and hopefully) wiser and more like Christ than I was in my younger years, rather than to be downcast because I am not as young, hip, and shapely as I was when I was ____ years old.

Don't you want that?

I don't want to be a woman who pines for days gone by... instead, I want to be one who is able to rejoice at the things that have passed, rejoice in "today", AND rejoice in what God will do in the future! Let's not buy into the lies of the world and have our years and our joy stolen from us. Be useful now, yes, whether you are 24 or 44 or 64... but also let your mind joyfully wander to those future days, when your body may be fading, but your spirit, your wisdom, and your countenance will be all the brighter in shining for the Lord Jesus.


Frieda said...

I've left 60 behind and agree totally with your thoughts. Here's one small thought that may serve to ...encourage?... you: you don't have to worry about not being as 'hip' when you reach an advanced age. You'll probably have more 'hip' than you did in your 20's!

Buffy said...

I thought this was a very positive post about growing older. I like Anne Ortlund too. BTW I don't think many people do live in the present, most people are worrying about the future or anticipating their next treat or holiday.

Terry said...

I love this post because it is so relevant, given our culture's obsession with youth and beauty. Thank you for reminding us that as Christian women we are to focus on adorning the inner man for the life to come rather than getting caught up in the externals of our earthly life, which is only temporary.

Andrea said...

I really agree, Jess. I want to be excited at what God has to offer at *all* stages in my life: it's an adventure.
However, that's not to say I won't feel sad when all the children have "left the nest". It will definitely be an adjustment. I really enjoy this time of mothering little ones. I just pray it wil be a smooth transition into all the stages of my life. :)

:..Rebekah..: said...

This is so good! What a wonderful perspective. I love the verse you quoted from Proverbs. I'll have to go and underline that one in my Bible! There are so many lies that we as Christian women have believed, and I am so thankful for godly women with wisdom who are shining light on the lies and encouraging other sisters in Christ to know the truth. Thanks Jess!

Anna S said...

Jess, of all your posts, this one is probably my favorite so far - and this says something!! Indeed, let's stop glorifying youth and beauty, and let's rather glorify our Lord God, every day, in every season of our lives.

Anonymous said...

When I graduated from high school, somebody told me how sad it was that I was leaving behind the best years of my life... what kind of thing is that to tell a 17 year old? I was 17! My life had barely started-- let alone peaked. Luckily for me, I thought they were crazy!

The Simple Shepherdess said...

Wow, you totally wrote my feelings exactly on this topic!!! I have tried to express my feelings about our cultures attitude toward aging, but I haven't managed to get it right. You articulated this SO well. I have never heard of the book you refer to, but I'm off to amazon to find it right now!

Brenda said...

Oh Jess, thank you for exposing this lie!!! I had never even thought about this but realized while I was reading that I have been believing that!!!!!!

I love that verse and this was a great, encouraging post!!!! Thank you a heap!

Persuaded said...

Well....this post brought me out of lurker-hood and into the comments pop-up!
I am 50yo and although there have been some difficulties along the way, life unquestionably does get better with each passing year...my teenagers say they can't wait til they get "old" like me, so I must be doing something right, I guess!

Now if only I could get my hairdresser to stop trying to convince me to cut and color my hair, all would be perfect, LOL!

Wonderful blog, btw:-)

Anonymous said...

I'm not all that old (only 36) but I feel eager to move toward older ages. I find that every year brings more wisdom, more peace about myself and more self-confidence.

I'm a big fan of the Ortlunds. Anne's books have long been a great ministry to me. If you're interested, she does still have a monthly ministry newsletter, even now that Ray has gone to be with the Lord.

*~Tamara~* said...

When I turned 27, a woman I know had a birthday at the same time and asked me, "Ugh, are you turning 30 too?" I said no. She said, "Be glad. It's awful. I can't believe I have to say I'm 30."

I wondered why. And now that I'm past 30, I still wonder why. Almost all of the women I admire and look up to are well past 30. I love, respect, and share with women my age and even younger, but for the most part, it is the older women who have been there, done that, told the story, and set the example that have my undivided attention when they speak.

To think you are used up, washed out, and past your prime at ANY point in your life completely ignores the sovereignty of God in your life. You are who are you, where you are, and what you are right now for a REASON. Discover what that is, embrace it, serve in that capacity. I long for the friendship of older women, women who are confident in their roles, whose lives are the evidence of God's grace and love.

If I can't have them in my present physical life, I wish they'd at least keep a blog. ;-)

dcrmom said...

Amen. I wish I could say that I have this perspective, but I am already bemoaning the lines I see appearing on my face. Youth is fleeting, but as you say, the best is yet to come. I love this post.

Anonymous said...

I just discovered your blog this evening and truly enjoyed this post, Jess - Thanks. One thing, I do believe living in the "now" is very important. This is how we savor the gift of this life. I understand that the language (Aramaic) that Jesus is said to have spoke only uses the present tense.


Mary said...

Awesome post! I'm wanting to embrace my future...gray hair and all! Seriously, I've never sweated getting older, not like my older sisters who hate to think of themselves in their 40's. I'm a whole decade and more younger than them, being the last and somewhat of an afterthought! Anyway, kudos on thinking to write on this subject at the tender age of 28!

I love the book recommendation, and that verse Anne quotes...beautiful! Am going to pass that along!

Thanks, Jess!

Jess said...

I have enjoyed getting to "know" the Ortlunds through their newsletters, too. I actually got a personal note from Ann last Spring, after having written her. I had no idea she would take the time to do that. Their ministry together has been very fruitful-- they're such a neat couple to watch as "examples" of burning brighter and brighter until we see King Jesus face to face.


Judi said...

Hi. Great post. When I hit 50 a couple of years ago, at first I felt sort of sad. I felt some regrets about things in the past that hadn't worked out quite the way I had wanted, either through my own fault, or circumstances beyond my control. Then, I realized that I could either brood about the past, or get excited about the future. I told myself I had -- maybe! -- another 50 years ahead of me, that could be filled with much joy and accomplishment. Thanks to God that I realized that. Whether I have one day ahead, or 50 years, it's a gift still to be opened, while the past is a memory.

Dana said...

Awesome - I work in a nursing home and I think it's terrible that people are so afraid of growing older. Some of the most beautiful women I have ever met are the women I see there.