Last month I turned 39. For real. This birthday prompted a lot of soul searching and I’ve started a list of things I want to do in this sunset year of my 30’s.
I haven’t found a good name for my list. I was calling it my Bucket List but that didn’t really work. Bucket List sounds resigned and not very hopeful. I don’t equate turning 40 with kicking the bucket. And this isn’t a list about last chances – it’s about new beginnings. It’s not about mourning my 30’s. It’s about wanting to launch into my 40’s on a wave of vital, purposeful living. Unimaginatively, I’ve settled for calling it my BF List – Before Forty List.
My list is still in its brainstorming stage. It has a whole variety of things on it. Selfish, silly things like considering Botox to deal with the ‘elevens’ developing between my eyebrows. Good things like working to preserve health and strength in my body. Grand things like publishing a masterpiece. Noble things like loving and leading my children better.
Weaving through all the doing, creating and accomplishing on my list is the thread of the main question: Being. What am I going to be in this next decade of my life? Who am I going to be?
Admittedly, I have yet to really figure out my current decade. What I know is that my roles are changing. My 30’s began amidst pregnancies and nursing – they are ending with space in my life for a little more. My kids still need me but in different ways. I’m not passing the days in a fog with one child on my hip and another on my ankles. For the most part.
As I sort through my list, evaluating what is right and good and worthy and what is frivolous, inevitably I start thinking about other people and what they are doing. And not just thinking about other people or being inspired by their goals and accomplishments, but comparing myself to them. In my economy I rarely measure up.
I spend too much time comparing myself to others – the way I look, the things I own, the things I do, what I accomplish. My question of what and who I am called to be, becomes who do I want to be? Who do I wish I was? Often the answer is I want to be someone else.
This makes me think of Peter. I like Peter. He was impulsive and passionate. He spoke before he thought. He jumped into the water out of passion rather than faith. He made reckless declarations that he couldn’t follow through on. And he failed miserably. When his feet were put to the fire he denied Christ – not once, but three times.
Jesus, in his tender mercy and grace, restored Peter, giving him the chance to affirm his love and commitment. And then he directed Peter to feed his lambs and shepherd his sheep. “Follow me,” Jesus said to Peter.
But Peter looked around to another disciple and asked, “What about him?”
I wonder what Peter’s question really was. Was Peter saying, I don’t want this burden by myself, I want help? Was he saying this seems unfair, why do I always have to do all the work? Perhaps, he was intimidated by the task Jesus set before him and he thought John was more qualified. Or was it just self interested nosiness? Well, what are you going to ask him to do then? I hear that from my kids. If I have to unload the dishwasher, what does he have to do?
Jesus gave Peter the same answer I give my kids – What is it to you? You must follow me. I tell my children, you unload the dishwasher and let me worry about your brother and his tasks. Jesus says, Peter, you go feed my sheep and let me worry about John. You just worry about following me.
Really this is the crux of the question anticipating my 40’s and what I’m going to do, create and be. The question of where I am headed is really, who am I following? And like Peter, my first thought is, but what about them? I think that someone else is more gifted for a task or that I would prefer the path that someone else is on. But Jesus says to me, never mind about them. You follow me.
I don’t know if Botox fits into that. Probably not. I think I’m relieved.
Jennifer Zach lives in Ahwatukee Foothills with her husband and three children. They are members of Bridgeway Community Church. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.