Fears Over Forty

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I am forty years old. I have many friends who are also forty years old. One thing that I find we have in common is an increasing desire to for our days to count for something of value. Forty is an interesting age. In some ways I still feel the energy of my youth. I still have the desire to compete, to spend myself for something worthy. I still possess a youthful optimism that the best is yet to come.

I also feel the creaking of my bones when I wake up. The glasses that hang, usually a bit skewed on my face remind me that my vision isn’t what it used to be. At forty I know the wisdom of numbering my days.

Like any season of life, this one is marked by certain hopes and certain fears. The hope is that I haven’t wasted my life, that my days have counted for something of worth and that there are still days ahead where things might even make more sense. There is hope that my mistakes haven’t been fatal, that I will still grow and improve and become what I am meant to be.

And then there are the fears. This morning I realized that I live with two levels of fear. On one level I fear not making enough money, losing the bit of material stability that I have. I fear losing influence and relationships. I fear a life of mediocrity. These are fears rooted in one story, a liturgy if you will, of the world. This story says that becoming is about being valuable – relationally, financially, vocationally. In this narrative I earn my value through the sweat of my brow. I win in relationships when my goodness outweighs my brokenness. This story exhausts me. In this story I can never win. In this story I can never be certain of my value because it’s determination is subjective and comparative in nature.

I also live with a second level of fear. On this level I fear living on the surface, giving into the liturgy of the first story. I fear living without courage and faith. I fear taking the easy road. I fear making decisions that make life comfortable but lifeless. I fear not fully drinking in the joy and peace offered without measure. I think these are good and helpful fears. These fears are also rooted in a story. This is the true story of the world. This story tells me that I am the beloved. This story says that I am made to live full life marked by a reckless faith, trusting that even my pain makes sense in the long run and is leading to something beautiful and whole. This story always says that the best is definitely yet to come, that I was called valuable before I ever did anything. In this story I am free to dream and explore and trust. This story is exhilarating.

Today I see the two stories and their promises and fears. Today I choose the second story. I choose a life of faith. I choose to believe that I’m beloved. I choose to believe that joy and peace aren’t a product of my circumstances rather they free gifts that are mine for the taking. And I choose to believe that my best days are yet to come and that my best will come not out of a clawing and grasping for meaning and value but from a deeply settled sense that I am chosen, loved, forgiven, and blessed by the King who is good and who will one day make all things new.

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