In five short days, my life as a thirty four year old woman will be over. (For anyone who lives in the digits above thirty five, I ask that you please keep your eye rolling to respectable minimum.) It’s true, I will make my camp in <deep breath>the land of the mid-thirties. I’m not excited. And in fact, for most of you, you have heard me do quite the belly aching. I mean if you want to put this in concrete terms, I will no longer be able to check the twenty something to 34 year old age bracket on surveys or questionnaires. You might ask, “how often do you fill out surveys or questionnaires Mel,” and the truth is, rarely. But it will happen, I’m sure, and when it does I will have to check that box that say 35-44, and I am pretty sure that is going to sting. Get this, 15 years from now, I will be 50! And just think it was 15 years ago that I was in college, which seems like yesterday, which is a pretty good indicator of just how fast 50 is going to hit me like a ton of bricks. And if I think 50 is coming fast, in five days I will be half way to 70!
Believe me, I can whine about getting older, and it might even be true that make-up remover, SPF 50 and wrinkle cream at my age are no longer accessories, rather assets, but perhaps my petty complaints about turning 35 run deeper than these surface grievances. Year 34 has been a pivotal year for me. It forever will be the year that is the guardian of some of my most sacred moments, as well as the keeper of the parts of my journey that almost crushed me in defeat. It’s been year 34 that has taught me that maybe our journey isn’t about becoming this ideal, or living up to the absurd expectations that weigh upon our shoulders. But, that maybe our journey is more about unbecoming. Unbecoming what others tell us we should be. Unbecoming what we tell ourselves we should be. Unbecoming to the point where are left naked, uncovered and vulnerable, bearing only our souls at the feet of God who’s grace is the source of our completeness.
And there lies the depth of my fear. Not necessarily in the actual turning of 35, but in the moving forward. I know how hard it will be to remain in this place of contentment, where I am stripped down to the bare bones of my soul, where God has chosen to scoot in close and where I have been embraced by this simple peace, this humble confidence and understanding of who I am. As the pages turn into 2016, and into the 35th year of my existence, I know that there will be chapters of life that blindside me, there will be weighty expectations I struggle to fight off, and there will doubt that creeps in to challenge my understanding of God’s grace. The fear isn’t paralyzing, and most days it’s not loud enough to cause harm. But it’s there. And for some odd reason, the face of year 35 has taken on this burden of anxiety.
But, if year 34 taught me anything, it taught me that God, who is full of grace and is abundant in this amazing, unwavering love, meets us where we are, every step. This year He met me in Central Park as I made an everlasting covenant with the love of my life. He met me when the church, and family, and friends drew their line and stood on the other side, opposing our marriage. He met me as new friendships blossomed, as a new support systems emerged. He met me in the lonely times where work kept Melinda away. And He met me on the adventures we spent together. He met me when a drink or food couldn’t fill the void. And He met me on the mountain tops of the Shenandoah Valley. Looking back it’s easy to see that in every step He was there, in every storm He was there, and in every victory He was there. Despite my fears, He was faithful.
Therefore, 35 here’s your apology. I have moaned about your coming long enough. You are certain to hold what I fear will be: days of failure, moments of defeat, the pain of loss, and times of trouble. But you too, will be the protector of my sacred days, my holy moments, the beautiful blessings, those times where I am reminded that God loves me too much to let any failure, sin, defeat and pain be the final word.
So bring on the wrinkle cream, the spanks, and let the gray hair take over. Perhaps 35 won’t be so bad. I mean I can still touch my toes, I can afford wrinkle cream, and in 5 days, I will be old enough to run for President!