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40 Life Lessons

Originally published Wednesday, 28 October 2015.

This week marks an important point in my life. I turn 40. It's a milestone, a sign post marking midlife. It means I am half way through this race of faith. As I reflect on the decades that are behind me, I wanted to share a few things I've learned along the way. 

1. Weakness is okay: When we are young, we feel compelled to convince people that we can do things on our own, that we are capable. One of the first complete sentences my kids spoke was "I do it!" When we leave home, we are ready to conquer the world. At some point though, we learn that we aren't as capable or as wise as we thought. Coming to the point where we admit and recognize that we are weak is a mark of growth and maturity. And perhaps a bit of fatigue that comes with getting older.

2. God's grace is sufficient: Though we are weak, God's grace is sufficient. I've learned that God always meets me where I am and makes me capable to do what he has called me to do. This is why weakness is okay because God calls us to abide in him and trust him alone to provide what we lack.

3. Time flies: Time goes by at a snails pace when we are young and speeds up as we age. Or so it seems. If you've not experienced this, you are still too young yet:)

4. Mercy is new each day: God's mercy is new every day and I am so thankful because I need it!

5. Community is necessary: This goes back to realizing that we are weak. In acknowledging our weakness, we also realize that we need the Body of Christ to help us. This is one of the ways God provides what we lack, through our brothers and sisters in faith.

6. Seasons of desert wanderings are necessary: We all have seasons in our life where we feel like nomadic wanderers heading in no particular direction. Such dry seasons are necessary for they bring us to our knees where we cry out for the ever present mercy of God. And he gladly supplies it.

7. Diversity is beautiful: When we are young, we think everyone should be like us. As we age we begin to see the beauty of diversity and difference. God created a beautifully diverse world filled with beautifully diverse people. We need to celebrate that more.

8. Change is inevitable: As much as we fight against it, change happens. Like the passage of time, all things change. We love to serve the god of comfort and ease so when change happens we are thrown and feel like the wind has been knocked out of us. Instead we need to expect change and even be prepared for it. 

9. The Bible never gets old: No matter how many times I read the same passage, chapter, or book of the Bible, there is always something new to be learned or something I've forgotten that I need to be reminded of.

10. The things that seem so big as a child grow smaller with age: Yes? Don't you think?

11. Not everything has to make sense: I used to think that I needed to have an answer to everything. I guess having children broke me of that. But I don't have to understand everything. I'm thankful God does.

12. Breakfast for dinner is always a good idea: Pancakes. Waffles. Omelettes. Enough said. 

13. Minivans aren't so bad: Still not my favorite, but they grown on you. And if you needed to, you could seriously live out of one.

14. If you don't bring a jacket you will get cold; likewise, if you don't bring an umbrella it will rain: This is one of the major rules I live by in Florida. It may not apply everywhere.

15. Comparison breeds discontentment: There is always someone who will have something you don't have but you would like. The more we dwell on what others have, the more discontented we are with what we have. I've had to learn the hard way to not compare myself with others. But there is freedom found in keeping our eyes fixed on Christ and not on others around us.

16. There is always something to be thankful for: This ties in to what I said above. God is rich in mercy and grace and lavishes it generously upon us. We'll never run out of things to thank him for.

17. God is not surprised by anything: This is one of my life phrases. It keeps me anchored when the world is crazy. Because God is not surprised and because he is in control of all things, there is no need to fear.

18. There are many offenses which can be overlooked: In marriage, in parenting, in friendship, in work, there are many little things we make a big deal out of that we shouldn't. Not everyone will put the toilet paper roll on the correct way. We just have to get over it.

19. People will never respond to emails as quickly as you expect: You know who you are. This irks me but it's a fact of life.

20. The older you get, the less you know: I realize more and more how little I know about anything. Oh I know plenty of facts. But life has taught me that I do not know everything. Life is humbling that way. But I am thankful that I don't have to know everything because God is King and he reigns with perfect wisdom, knowledge, and insight.

21. The older you get, the more of a sinner you realize that you are: This is connected to number 20. In the upside down kingdom, the more you grow in holiness, the more you realize how much of a sinner you really are. It's not that you sin more, it's that more of your sinfulness becomes apparent. Unlike what happens with our eyes as we age physically (I got my first pair of glasses this year!), as we mature spiritually, our vision becomes clearer and we see better who we truly are and how much we desperately need God's grace.

22. You need to stretch your spiritual muscles or they will grow flabby: Laziness is far easier than being active and pursuing health and growth. We need to stretch ourselves spiritually. We need to study books of the Bible we've barely glanced at before. We need to memorize longer passages. We need to grow deeper in our knowledge of who God is. We are in a war and need to be prepared for it and we'll only be prepared if we are spiritually fit.

23. Friendship as an adult is always better: Sure friendships were fun as kids but friendships as adults are much richer and deeper. 

24. Coffee just isn't as good if it's not in a French Press: Don't believe me? Try it. There's no turning back.

25. Rejection is painful but survivable: I've lost track of the number of times I've been rejected for one reason or another. Some were less painful than others but they all hurt. But there are lessons learned through those rejections. And those times of rejection have only helped me understand Christ's rejection for me.

26. The best books are those you read over and over:  If you are a reader, you know what I mean.

27. A digital book will never be the same as a real one: I do love the convenience of a digital book but there's nothing like the feel of a real book. 

28. So much time is wasted on things that just don't matter:  Life is short and too often is spent pursuing after and worrying about things that don't matter in the end. I don't want to live with regrets. I've wasted too much time already. You too? Let's seek to glorify God in what we do with our time that remains.

29. The era of a good romantic comedy has passed: Seriously. Whatever happened to movies like Sweet Home Alabama and the like?

30. Bible memorization is more important than we realize: It seems laborious and time consuming and often too hard for my weary brain but sometimes it's the only ammunition we have against the enemy. How can we not store God's word in our heart?

31. Jesus is the only way to the Father: As much as the world wishes otherwise, there are not multiple ways to God. There is only one way and it's the narrow way. 

32. Hope is a Person: Hope is not a wish. It's not good thoughts or crossed fingers. Hope is real and it is only found in Christ.

33. It's a good thing to ask for help. Back to my thoughts about weakness. I guess it's a theme of my life. :When we admit that we are weak, we can then ask for help. And often, there is someone waiting and ready to provide that help.

34.  Theology is the solid ground we stand on when everything is changing and shifting around us: Knowing theology is a must for the believer. There's no way around it. Our hearts must be saturated with the truth of who God is and what he has done. Otherwise, we will most certainly fall when the thoughts and beliefs of the world shift around us. When storms of life crash upon us, only knowing the truth will keep us from drowning.

35. We are prone to wander: My heart is idolatrous. I am prone to seek after false loves. I put my hope in things that don't last and have no power to save me. This is a lifetime battle because just when I've discovered one idol in my heart and remove it, another pops up in its place. I am so thankful for God's grace which always leads me back home, no matter how far and how often I've wandered.

36. Grief and loss keep us from getting too comfortable with this world and make us long for our eternal home: This is a hard lesson I keep having to relearn and one I am going through right now. 

37. Prayer is too often neglected: Prayer should be the first thing we do. In any situation. It's how we commune and speak with God. It's one of the methods God uses to carry out his will. It's one of the ways we worship, honor, and glorify him. It's how we give him our burdens. I could go on. Martin Luther was right when he said, 'I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.'

38. Waiting, though hard, can bear fruit in our lives: The process of waiting for anything is often painful. But Scripture tells us that waiting on the Lord is a good thing. I think that is because God works during that season of waiting to refine us. In waiting, many lessons are learned, sins and idols are revealed, and our need for Christ is made all the more evident. 

39. We need the gospel every day: The gospel is not just for the moment of salvation, it is a reality that we need each and every moment of the day. We need frequent reminders of what Christ has done for us at the cross. Throughout our lives, we need to turn to the cross in repentance when we sin and be reminded again of the forgiveness and grace Christ purchased for us there. We need the gospel to remind us that we've been made new and we are not who we once were. We need the gospel to point us to the day that is coming when all things will be redeemed. In truth, the gospel is something we never outgrow. 

40. And the plural of fox is foxes: I guess this is only important if your last name also ends in "x."

How about you? If you looked back on the decades of your life, what lessons have you learned?