On a child’s first birthday, she has completed her first year of life and is embarking on her second. I will be 33 years old in just a few days and as I age I’ve learned to reflect each birthday on my lessons, triumphs and pitfalls I’ve experienced over the year of my life coming to a close. Jesus was 33 when he died. There is something enchanting about that. I feel old. Probably because many people I meet are younger than me and things didn’t used to be this way. But still, I feel like I have so much life left to live. Here are my reflections on my 33rd year of life and my wonders for my 34th.
On my 32nd birthday I happened to be in Palm Beach Florida for a family reunion. Unrelated to my birthday, we had a big dinner on the beach with my aunts, cousins, and extended family from my mother’s side. I had ended a serious relationship just a few weeks prior and was feeling down about spending my birthday alone. I was uneasy about what the coming weeks and months would bring as I tried to put my pieces back together again. But as I look back now, I am reminded that I was never really alone. That’s only something a glass half empty kind of person would say. After all, I was on vacation in South Florida with my children and twenty or thirty family members who surprised me with a cake at dinner when I thought no one remembered or cared all that much about me.
I returned home after vacation to a cramped room I was renting that was very small and yet very expensive, the cost of living in the NYC metro area. I was in transition. Most of my life was boxed away in storage. However, God had been gracious. It could always be worse. I could be homeless living in a shelter, in the subway, on the street. God gave me perspective and I was thankful. For the first time in my life, I had a job I loved and looked forward to daily. In that, God gave me distraction—something wonderful in a world full of terrible.
Between then and now, I have moved into a bigger apartment, painted my children’s rooms, published a novel, found a church family I adore and made a host of lady friends (God is such a show off), applied to grad school for my MFA, and gotten promoted at work making my days more challenging and exciting… and my mind calmer. Of course, there is the love and affection I miss. We all do need that no matter what anyone says. And during my move, I was reminded that I didn’t have a strong man around to lift the boxes and put together the furniture and drill the holes and hammer the nails. But, God provided. I won’t mention the small things here for fear that they would be taken too lightly. But there were times—many—when God whispered ever so softly that he was my provider. Actually he didn’t always whisper. Sometimes he yelled quite loudly to stop my crying. “Get up,” He would say, “and get back to work… don’t worry about the how. Watch… you will see.”
Somebody called Child Protective Services implying I was somehow a bad mother when I knew how far that was from the truth. “Really God?” was all I could muster. “Be still,” he said. “Watch and you will see.” The complaint blew over, Christmas and New Year’s came, and I could breathe again.
Over the last year, I’ve fallen down, sometimes when tripped, sometimes on my own. I’m tired of walking this narrow path, I’d say subconsciously, I’ll sit right here on the ground a while. It’s a little more fun to do. There were times this year I’ve cried that life wasn’t the way I’d imagined it. But what I’ve learned more this year than any other is that this life doesn’t really matter all that much. Of course it matters in the sense that we only get one (or two depending on how you look at it), and it’s a blessing and privilege to encounter God, be used by him to bring others to Christ, to love and be loved…and laugh in the meantime. What I am saying is that it doesn’t matter so much if we reach these miniscule goals we have for our careers or get married at exactly the time we said we would, have exactly the kids we said we would have that get perfect grades in school. It doesn’t matter so much if we buy the house we want exactly at the time we dreamed we would or buy that chesterfield sectional, and get that family dog. What matters much more is our growth in God. That we see his face a little bit clearer each year. The key is not to fight the journey, but to lean into it.
After all, how would I know that God can be all things if there are some things He has never had the opportunity to be to me. The very things that I desire from my one-day husband are the same things God is asking from me. Loyalty, trust, affection, and unconditional love. No matter what it looks like to anyone else, all of my battles this year have been about me and God.
Like the poet Da Truth says, “I hate what I had to go through, but I love the fact that I got to know you.” God proves himself to me time and again and he doesn’t have to. He stoops to my level and answers my elementary questions: If I do as you say, will you help me? But how will I pay the rent? Who will look after the children? What about when Christmas comes around? What shall I do when I am all alone? What about next year—my 34th year of life? What am I supposed to do then?
His answer is and has always been…
Watch…you will see.