JN Fenwick © 2020 | Author, Four Weeks | Editor, In the Eye of the Storm, In the Aftermath of the Storm
Turning 50 seemed like such a surreal moment to me. How could I be 50 so quickly? I mean just yesterday I was 21, right?! It seemed that way to me! In fact, I realized that mentally, I don’t really see myself all that differently. I mean sure, I have gray hair I now color and perhaps my boobs and butt aren’t exactly in the same spot they were in my youth. I have stretch marks but also two beautiful, healthy daughters. I have a few more laugh lines and wear reading glasses.
My knees creak when I climb stairs thanks to all my years of running. I sound more and more like my mother every day! But these are all physical things. Things that happen naturally through aging. Fighting it is pointless. What has changed most about me isn’t visible and has nothing whatsoever to do with my physical self. Still, 50 was a big deal for me, as it is for most of us.
As I sit here now, three years later, (YES! Count them! THREE!) I realize that like 50, 53 is just a number. What matters more is the journey that has brought me here. The life WITHIN me. It’s the experiences, the choices, the lessons I’ve learned, people I’ve encountered, and those I’ve been so lucky to love that are the true gifts. So, this year, on this day, the day before beginning my 53rd year, I thought I’d share some of these gifts with you.
These five things come from my own experiences, from the wisdom and examples of those who have touched my life, and most importantly from God, as He placed them on my heart and provided me with the words to share them.
First, the only perfect being who ever walked this earth was Christ. We are not meant to be perfect. We are meant to be flawed, broken at times, to make mistakes. It’s in these moments that we instinctively drop to our knees and look up. It’s in these moments we acknowledge our humanness, and more importantly, it’s in these moments we are most willing to surrender.
Stay on your knees. Always look up. The perfection you’re seeking can only found in Christ.
Second, we are never in control. From the moment we’re born, God has a plan for us. A purpose. We spend so much of our lives truly believing we control our own destinies. Wrong. The tighter we hold on to that illusion of control, the farther away we are from God’s plan for us. The less likely we are to hear His voice; feel His presence. And He is ALWAYS there. He NEVER gives up on us. We are His beloved children.
There is not a step we’ll take, a place we’ll go, He has not already marked for us. Let go of the illusion. Let God have control.
Three, forgiveness is not something we give only to others, it’s something we must also give ourselves. One of the hardest things I’ve ever been called to do is to forgive myself. For years I carried the guilt and shame of the sins I’d committed, the betrayal and pain I’d caused, like the dead weight it was. I felt unworthy of God’s forgiveness, so how could I possibly forgive myself? I carried this burden with me for so long that I truly began to believe that I had strayed too far to ever come back home. I was wrong.
The very moment I fell to my knees in anguish, in true and willing surrender, unable to take one more step, I felt God’s presence and peace immediately fill my soul. In my mind my sin was great. What I failed to realize is that God’s love for me is greater. The forgiveness I’d run from had been there all along. God was but waiting for me to find it through Him. Through His Son.
Don’t be so prideful as to think you are unworthy of God’s mercy and forgiveness. It is ALWAYS there. As God forgives us, so too must we forgive others and, most importantly, ourselves.
Four, yesterday is gone; tomorrow is yet to be, we LIVE in the present. We spend so much time lamenting our past, hoping for the future that we forget to truly be present in the moment. It’s called the present for a reason. It IS a gift, and we’re not promised another. “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life” (Eckhart Tolle). It seems simple on the surface doesn’t it? But our minds have been trained to dwell in the past, to let it define us; and to look toward the future as a chance for something better, something other than what we have NOW. Let all that go.
Give the past to God’s keeping and the future to His mercy, and live in THIS moment fully, presently, and gratefully.
Five, I AM THIRD. My father said these words to me when I was 10. My fifth-grade teacher had assigned us an essay. To write about our hero. For me that was, and still is, my father. “What’s your philosophy for life,” was one of the questions we were assigned to ask. My dad looked at me and quietly responded, “I am third.” I had no idea what he meant. Seeing my confusion, he explained. “In this life,” he said, “And in all things, God comes first. Then your fellow man. You are always third.”
It was years later that I finally realized what my father meant, and more importantly that he had lived his life by those words. We are all called to be third. To surrender to God first and foremost, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less,” (John 3:30). To put others before ourselves, in thought and in deed, “For you, brothers, were called to freedom. Only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity to gratify your flesh, but through love make it your habit to serve one another,” (Galatians 5:13) That the self must always come last. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus. Although he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God something to cling to. He emptied himself, taking the form of a bond servant, made in the likeness of men. He humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,” (Philippians 2:5-8). There is no greater example of selflessness than this.
Live your life with humility and grace, understanding that God must come first and that placing others before yourself is not weakness, it is strength in its purest form.
So yes, at 50+3, I have changed. And I thank God for that. For ALL the blessings in my life and the lessons, especially the ones that fortified my need for Him. The hard ones. The ones that hurt. The ones that left marks on my skin and scars on my soul. At the time I didn’t realize it, but these were the moments I needed most.
These are the moments that brought me to my knees. And the ones that keep me there.