By Megan Moore, Crosswalk.com
My 40th birthday is this week. Often referred to as the “Over the Hill” birthday, it feels more like I am standing on top of that hill finally able to see clearly. Reaching my forties, the decade when many women say they have finally settled into themselves and feel more at peace than ever before, has allowed me to look back at the hill I have climbed and down the other side to what comes next.
Looking back, I see 40 years full of the various emotions that make up a life. I affectionately laugh at most of my memories with friends and family. I cringe at some of the things I have done in an attempt to make people like me. I give myself grace for the pressure I have put on myself. I see times when my pride has brought me down and times when I am rightfully proud of who I am. There are moments I have to look away from because I wish they could be erased, and there is Jesus, who really did erase all those sins.
As I climbed this hill, I picked up many, many supplies. Some have helped me significantly and made me better. Others are a burden, weighing me down. As I begin to walk down the other side, I can choose what to shed and what to hold on to. I can look at all of these tools that I have needed or thought I needed, or that someone else thought I needed, and determine if they are still beneficial. Keeping my Bible in one hand as my compass for the rest of the path, I am taking inventory of what to continue carrying.
Some of my anxiety and perfectionism have brought me this far, but at what cost? Will they trip me and push me down the hill so that I don’t even realize how fast I’m going? I’ll just leave those right here at the top. I know they will roll down the hill after me, but I will try to keep them behind.
Laughter and grit picked me up when I was falling on my climb. They are light and helpful so they are staying with me, easy to access.
My youth is behind me. It was wonderful, and there are things that I miss, but it isn’t returning, and I refuse to chase it. I look back and see it, and I peacefully leave it there. I look ahead, or just right in the mirror, and see wrinkles and gray hair and a softer middle. I give that woman a hug. She has lost her angles and rough edges and is the kind of woman I want to be embraced by.
There are relationships that will stay with me and some that will stay behind and plenty more on the way.
Body image issues, concern about what others think, and frustration about things not being “right” are trying to stay with me. They are packed way down deep in what I am carrying, and it is hard to get them out, but I am trying. They are heavy and burdensome. I don’t need them, and I don’t want them weighing me down any longer.
Generosity stays. The sacrifices of financial giving, making meals for families who have just welcomed babies or gone through a surgery, hosting friends for dinner, opening our home for church small groups, and volunteering have changed my life in ways beyond what I can recognize. There are always opportunities to care for and show love to others, and the rewards are immeasurable.
Goodbye to fear. It has been in my way too much and needs to stay behind. Fear of failure, fear of criticism, fear of messing up. Fear is a crutch– I use it too much, and it is time for me to walk on my own.
Keeping the conversation on me stays here.
Listening comes along.
Being emotional. I’m not sure what to do with this one. I am quick to tears, to the point where even I roll my eyes at myself. At the same time, I am glad to be able to fully access and identify my emotions. I would like to be more stoic in some situations. Like when I am working with students, and tear up when I tell them I am proud of them. Or when my own children tell me about a hard time at school, and my eyes water. I make it awkward, but I am not convinced that is bad. I think I will walk my tears on a leash and decide if they need to stay close or can run off for a while.
I would like to leave behind the belief that I am, apparently, the only person who can load a dishwasher correctly, but we’ll see if that’s possible.
I would like to continue to carry the belief that if I tell my children something one time then they will do it and remember it forever, but I probably need to shed that, too.
I will leave behind trying to impress. It’s exhausting. And fruitless.
Authenticity, vulnerability, and openness get to stay.
Passion for what I care about remains–Jesus, family, feeding people, caring for kids and adults with special needs.
I will always and forever tell stories.
Jealousy is not invited to my second half.
Love gets to lead the way.
In the Bible, the number 40 indicates the end of a season of trials or testing. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights as Noah and his family were in the ark (Genesis 7:12). The Israelites wandered the desert for 40 years (Numbers 32:13). Goliath taunted Saul’s army for 40 days before he was slain by David (1 Samuel 17:16). Jesus fasted and was tempted for 40 days (Matthew 4:2).
Whether the number is literal or symbolic, these verses show us that 40 signifies something new; a time of hardship followed by freedom. They are examples of God using 40 as the turning point…or, I guess you could say, the top of the hill. I have lived a beautiful life thus far. I would not say that my first 40 years have been a hardship or a trial, but I do believe that I am entering into freedom. Freedom from all of those traits and behaviors that either held me back then or are slowing me down now. Freedom to live fully as who I am supposed to be. Freedom to know myself and celebrate friendships with women who are experiencing the same things. Freedom to let my irritations go and appreciate my husband and marvel at my kids as they age.
I have no way of knowing what the rest of my life will include or how long it will last. But I do know that turning 40 is a celebration of God’s work and a privilege that I will not waste. “Gray hair is a crown of splendor” (Proverbs 16:31). I thank the Lord for bringing me to the top of this hill and over it, eventually into glory.
“The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything.” (Deuteronomy 2:7)
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Megan Moore is a military spouse and mom of 3 (through birth and adoption). A speech-language pathologist by training, she now spends her time moving around the country every couple of years. She is passionate about special needs, adoption, and ice cream.
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