I turned twenty-nine this past Sunday. In my family this means I am now as old as my mother. For as long as I can remember my mother has blown out twenty-nine candles on her cake and celebrated another last year before thirty. I think the joke is funny, but there is something happening to me as I approach this my thirtieth year. I am about to be… old. I realize this could be offensive to the majority of the City Pres readers. But listen, my high school students cannot comprehend thirty. To them I think the only real age is 17. I’ve decided to believe them and march the solemn march to the decay and atrophy of thirty because it feels dramatic, and I’ve always been one for drama. I therefore, like you, am getting old, and I’m feeling pretty fierce about it.
I have always hated anti-aging campaigns. In our culture “aging well” tends to mean, “She is showing no signs whatsoever of age. She is fooling us. She is looking younger than she is. Good for her.” I know I don’t buy this. But what is aging well? And how can I do it? How can I turn thirty, thirty-five, forty, fifty, sixty-two, and meet those birthdays with acceptance? No really, I’m asking. How?
I have friends at City Pres and elsewhere who model aging well for me. They are either fearless or are at least fooling me. They look beautiful, they look their age, and they respect themselves and are respected by others. These are men and women who have resisted the culture’s lie that beauty is for the wrinkle-free, the blemish free, and the body unmarked by childbirth, trials, and time. I guess they know something I know too: Aging well happens from the inside out. It’s about a million little choices that add up to a life well lived. A life with smile wrinkles and battle scars and the awareness that Christ has given them the gift of life and the Holy Spirit has empowered them to live with gratitude, repentance, and laughter.
I think at milestones it’s important and great to look back with openness and to look forward with hope and goals. For this year, I made a list of thirty things to do before I’m thirty, and I filled it with things that I think will please God, make the world a little better, and make me happy. It’s filled with things like go bird watching, have a homeless person over for dinner, get a tattoo, and make my own cleaning supplies. Of course, I haven’t done any of this stuff yet, but God help me, I’m going to. And I figure if I even get 10 of the 30 things done I’ll still be better off.
I think the church can be the coolest voice in the conversation of aging in a culture that has it all wrong. “Forty is the new thirty,” the magazines testify. I don’t know what that means, but I know I don’t want to be physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, or spiritually thirty when I’m forty. I want to be plain old forty.
So I need help, women, and the men need help too. We need help growing up and growing each other up, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16 Amen.
Post script: I also need help learning how to sew a quilt. Yes, that is number 17 on my list.