Church on the Net

The faith of a 40-something

First published 15 Jun 2008

Surely I'm the person who had mumps, and birthday parties with balloons, and a polystyrene house for my Pippa dolls. And then I turned around, and BANG!  Suddenly I'm in my forties. How on earth did it happen?

Nowadays, my weekends are less cinema matinées and sleepovers than shopping for a new vacuum cleaner and staring at the ironing pile. And my weeks are all about working to deadlines.

In a busy household with one or more children, it can be hard to hold onto a sense of self. With so many external pressures, how can we find time to remember the person we once were, and perhaps still are, deep inside?

I once imagined I'd live my adult life overseas, doing some terribly glamorous or sickeningly worthy job. Now I know I don't—and I also know it's unlikely to change. I won't have any more children, and the way I live is a pattern that's set to continue. I'm now living in the future I once wondered about, and the dreams have either been realised (own home, husband, child, job I enjoy) or not (becoming a fighter pilot, finding a cure for cancer, and having a hit record—although deep in my heart I know I can't sing). And there's good and bad to all of that.

I'm realising that the pace of change is slowing down, and I'm coming to terms with the fact that while I still feel 11 inside, people on the other side of my eyeballs are responding to someone who's 44. I care a lot less about being caught out of the house in my slippers.

But if it's hard for me to find a sense of self as I get older, I do find it a little easier to have a sense of God. There are enough decades behind me now to be able to point to the highs and lows and say, “That is what God was doing there”. I can see how different events or circumstances join up, even though they were individually incomprehensible at the time, and say, “That thread was part of God's bigger plan for me.” And it gives me a comforting sense of his being in control.

I have a sizeable store now of those cherished moments when God revealed himself to me in some special or astonishing way. In my mind's eye these moments are all stitched together into a beautiful quilt; each scrap is of a different pattern, shade and texture, but put together by the hand of a loving, creative maker they become something amazingly meaningful and comforting.

Of course, that quilt isn't yet complete, and I don't know whether it will take God a matter of weeks or decades to finish it. Which of us knows the date of our own death?

And that's something I don't fear (dying, yes—some deaths are horrific, and I don't want that). But I don't fear death… that'll be when I roll up my beautiful, completed quilt, tuck it under my arm, and set out to meet the One who made it.

Pray: Lord, we all attach so much value to youth. But you don't see it that way: we're just as loved and precious and special, however old we are. Help me to appreciate the value you attach to me, and help me to value all others - regardless of age or beauty.

Think about: How you feel about the prospect of your own death? We spend a lot of time planning our lives, but so little planning for our departure. If you can allow yourself to think about life really beginning after we die, how does that affect your reponse to God, or the way you live your life here and now?

Challenge: Do something this week you used to enjoy doing when you were younger. The more eccentric, hilarious or ridiculous, the better - as long as you don't hurt anyone or break the law! Remember you're still the same person God made you to be back then.