I embraced turning 40 this year, because pausing to reflect on 4 decades of growth and change is a good thing. I shutter at the thought of getting to my golden years and still acting out in dysfunctional patterns that were prevalent in my 20s or 30s. It’s a sad state to witness. I don’t want to waste any years in stagnancy, having no forward growth.
As I look back on God’s major work throughout 4 decades of my life, I begin with seeing timidity, self-centeredness, excessive worry, and an abundance of self-reliance, all under the umbrella of pride. One way this was manifest was not speaking up for myself. I literally sat quietly, getting 3rd degree burns from a perm solution in middle school, because I was too nervous to say anything. Once I got older and in relationships, you can imagine the mounting internal wreckage when you don’t stand up for yourself.
Another prevalent theme in my past, which can still creep up like fertilized weeds today, is the inward focus and utter disregard for others. I cringe as I type that, knowing there’s been a wake of damage left, and how I long that things would’ve been different.
A.W. Tozer said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”
I encountered God in a new and profound way at age 22, and from that time the lifelong sanctification began, trenching out deep-rooted sin one after another from my prideful heart. The twenties were a start in the process, 30s included bigger strides away from self and more toward Christ, and therefore I embrace the 40s with hopeful anticipation of what He will weed out next. I’ve undoubtedly got a long way to go, as the process is never complete here on Earth, but it’s encouraging to see progress. Life flows so much better when you walk in obedience to His ways.
Aside from Christ’s saving grace, the most life-saving, life-changing, moments of my life occurred in an office chair opposite a family counselor.
How invaluable and essential to hear an outsider’s unbiased, tell-it-like-it-is, assessment of your degeneracy. Holding her hand up and moving in a flat, horizontal line, a wise counselor once explained to me that the majority of people go along in life in this pattern, and when they offend or hurt someone, they dip down to this “valley”, as she mimicked that downward movement with her hand, they feel remorse over their actions, and then when reconciled move back up to that higher plane and continue along. She deduced that I grew up never experiencing that dip. True. But for the grace of God I’d still be that person.
My heart began to open to others and the new perspective of seeing the world through others’ eyes started to come into focus.
What seems to an awful and terrible fallout from poor choices can absolutely be redeemed by God for good (Romans 8:28). He can allow sin and devastation in our lives so we can learn, grow, and mature into who He wants us to be. Being in the Refiner’s Fire is a tough yet tender place to be. “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines” Hebrews 12:6.
James 1:2-4, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”