Sunday, March 11, 2007

my birthday

I turned 36 years old on Friday.

This is the first year I actually felt kind of depressed about my age.

I'm not sure why.

In fact, my 9 year old daughter told me that I was one of the youngest moms of all her friends.

Then, my husband gleefully reminded me that I'd been out of school longer than I had been in school.

Maybe it's less about my age and more about the season of life my husband and I are now in. Our oldest son is on his way to turning sixteen. SIXTEEN!! I love that my kids are teenagers and soon-to-be teenagers, but it is sobering -- no TERRIFYING -- to think of all that we hope to teach them still. And time is just flying by.

So, i'm home from church today. Celebrated my birthday with a dinner out last night and all that rich food did not make my stomach happy. (or is it just a sign of old age to go along with the sun-spots on my face and hands??) With an unscheduled quiet morning on my hands, I dusted off my journal and took a sort-of inventory of my life up to now.

I'm thankful.

I'm blessed.

I have a lot of work to do.

The list of years became less about numbers and credentials and more about people. I realize that I have fought hard for the relationships that are most vital to me -- my family, my God. I also realize -- in that dispassionate inventorying of my life's years -- that there are many relationships I've let go of. Some for reasons of the reality of time and space that distances us. Some for reasons of chemistry -- something just didn't click between us. Some for reasons of fear and self-protection. For so many, many, many years (I'd say about 35 1/2 -- unless I shouldn't count the year before I could walk and talk) I haven't really known who lived inside this skin I'm in. I haven't really known if it was OK to know her, let alone to be her.

Even with the passive-agressive battle I've fought against the true self God intended, sometimes my life circumstances have allowed certain parts of that self to thrive -- but always the results were switching back and forth between one or the other lens of a pair of binoculars. And so -- certain relationships would begin to form based on the one part of myself that happened to be showing (like my grandmother's slip beneath her dress) -- whether it be the creatively-chaotic girl who made all her siblings and cousins plan plays and circuses and musicals that never happened or the adolescent who cried for hours on end because her friends didn't seem to love Jesus or the teenager whose body was more mature than her heart and who just really, really liked boys or the college roommate who could care less about college and just wanted to be married or the terrified 19-year-old bride or the exhausted new mommy or the financially broken married couple desparate to get food on the table and a house for our four kids or the professionally employed business woman or the grieving victim of abuse or the misunderstood artist or the mom of four busy kids who have dreams and desires of their own (but who refuse to clean their rooms or care about their homework) or the girl who loves classic rock, the smell of cigar smoke and the taste of a cold beer (preferrably on the sand of some Caribbean island) or the woman who loves Jane Austen, beat poetry and hopes to someday visit every coffee dive across Europe -- preferrably alone. That doesn't even take into account the chic who loves to sit in her bathrobe and watch old episodes of Matlock and Magnum P.I.!

What a wacky combination! How is a girl to edit that all down to a couple of sentences for a relationship classified ad??

Consider this statement from Frederick Buechner:

Starting with the rather too pretty young woman and the charming but rather
unstable young man, who together know no more about being parents than they do the far side of the moon, the world sets in to making us what the world would
like us to be, and because we have to survive after all, we try to make
ourselves into something that we hope the world will like better than it
apparently did the selves we originally were. That is the story of all our
lives, needless to say, and in the process of living out that story, the
original, shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us hardly end up
living out of it at all. Instead, we live out all the other selves which we are
constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s
weather. (Telling Secrets)

If I were to add one sentence to Buechner's quote it would be that not only have I lived out all those selves like a variety of coats and hats -- each of those selves is looking for relationships -- other people -- that would serve as the perfect accessory (maybe like umbrellas and scarves?).

Even as I write, I hear the Holy Spirit's encouragement to accept the gift of a variety of friendships and levels of relationship...just as He is asking me to accept the entirety of the person He has created me to be. The root of the problem is the identity crisis of my soul -- the restless part of me that is 'constantly putting on and taking off' selves 'like coats and hats against the world's weather.'

To sum up: I am so grateful for the foundational relationships in my life -- my parents, my God and now, because of a deep, deep grace that I dont' deserve, but treasure without indifference, my husband and children. I could stay there and be a thankful woman.

I could stay there. But I'd be disobeying God. I am convinced this is true.

I want to grow into this part of the DNA God has given me that is free to actively love anyone in my sphere of living and yet truly know and live with just a few. I desire to live out of the entirety of the woman God has created me to be in pursuit of this next level of relationship.

I am thankful that in this thirty-sixth year of my life I have a renewed hope in that possibility.
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