For Everything There Is a Season: Reflections on Turning 40
(Listen to the audio version of this article here.)
Almost to the day of me turning 40, I began receiving emails from my dermatologist with deals for $10 shots of Botox.
Along with some other strange things like: silver hair appearing around my temples, thinning skin on my forearms, random jutting veins like tributaries on an old map on skin only visible when I wear shorts (which is rarely), under eyes like crinkle paper, new ridges etching into my forehead (what my daughter calls: “squigglies”), groaning when I bend down to pick something up, creaking when I wake up the morning after a workout, calling college students “kids,” and needing that overhead light to do the dishes…
I also started recognizing a fascination with (or reliance upon):
For Everything There Is a Season
In the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, the author describes the human condition with candor. Our lives and the inevitable procession of time toward death. The author argues the impermanence of life on earth and the illusion of security. The ridiculousness of prosperity. Much that we hold dear on this groaning planet is like a “puff of air” and a “chasing after the wind.” Those things that we rely on—no sturdier than a house built on sinking sand.
The other day, I reflected on all of these puffs as I walked around my neighborhood, waving to the old couple rocking on their porch swing, and nodding when the pretty high school student jogged by without jiggling or wincing. I noticed all of the spring flowers appearing: the brilliant daffodils, crocus, and the beginning buds of dogwood trees like tear drops. And I thought for a moment how fleeting the blossoms are—how the flowers bloom and grow and then fade with each turn of the season. Vibrant petals that float away when the nights get cold.
I thought about the Bible and other books I’ve read that have opened my heart to a deeper understanding of my life and the few brief years I have on this planet. Much of Scripture is like that: an attempt to describe, understand, and wrestle with our movement of life from birth to death. If the lilies really are clothed in splendor, what is the purpose of it all when the outward brilliance fades away?
What is the meaning?
What Can I Focus on in The Second Act?
Our culture has a fascination with the birth side of things: the new, the shiny, the wrinkle-free. Don’t even get me started on the impact of social media on all of this. And also, we all tend towards the pleasure side of things. I know I do.
You do you, boo.
Find what feels good.
Treat yo’ self.
You are enough.
It’s five o’clock somewhere.
The author of Ecclesiastes puts it this way:
“I said to myself, ‘Come now, I will make a test of pleasure; enjoy yourself.’ But again, this also was vanity. […] Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasing after the wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11).
All of this begs the question: What should I focus on in this second act? Should I do those things that have been dormant on my over-flowing bucket list?
Buy a muscle car (preferably red)
Write that book
Travel to that country
Dye my hair purple
Get that job
Or is there more?
Choosing More after Turning 40
While the author of Ecclesiastes is clear that there is much “chasing after the wind” that amounts to hellabeans as the kids say (or used to say—I’m not quite sure), we can have assurance that our lives do mean something. We can choose to chase after wisdom—and not the wind. We can look in the mirror and learn from the mistakes of the past. We can move from self-serving to serving others. We can give our past and current selves a pat of tender grace. We can ask for forgiveness when we are wrong. We can choose to go another way as long as it is called “Today.”
In my second act, I’d like to set a couple goals for myself. Not resolutions or chasing the wind, or striving after some sort of perfection, which I’ll never attain. I would like brace myself and hold before me a hope, a truth, a holy wink.
While my outward parts are wasting away or sagging or thinning or turning gray, my inward being is being renewed day by day. God is doing something in my heart through this odd aging process that is refining me, preparing me.
In this second act, I’d like to focus on this: on the God who created me.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1
It can be hard to recognize that we’re growing older, but there is good in each new season of life. If you need a little help looking for it, check out this podcast episode: What Does Optimism Bring to a Woman’s Life? – 184