Around this time last year I turned 32. It was shocking. My oldest child had to remind me for months that I was 32, not 31 like I was saying. For nearly all of my adult life I’ve felt like an 18 year old playing house. As if I were still under my parents’ care but floating through some phony reality, pretending to be a wife and a mom and be in charge of the checkbook and making dinner. And then getting really mad at everyone else when a check bounced or dinner tasted terrible. I longed to figure out who I was because the day-to-day stuff didn’t feel right. Like walking in someone else’s shoes, except without the growing perspective. A part of an act.
Oh. But then. I turned 32 and my shoes fit.
I felt sure. Not sure of any one thing in particular, just sure. Confident. Right. I don’t know if this new found steadiness came along because I had 4 kids or because the swine flu invaded my territory and lit a match of fear like unlike any I’ve ever experienced. I don’t know if my assuredness came by way of the exhaustion and therefore helplessness. Maybe it was just a coming of age thing. Maybe I was just ready to see things differently. Maybe it was a culmination of love and grace that finally broke through some tough ground. But the result? Oh, the result has been bliss.
When I was a freshman in high school, I lost my retainer. And looked everywhere for it for a few weeks or a month. And then one day it showed up on my dad’s desk at his work. It was in a case that wasn’t marked for anyone to know who it belonged to. No indicator of its owner. But there it was. Found. That’s kinda how it was when I turned 32… a little unexpected gift. A gift that increased my faith.
I’ve been trying to name my 32 gift year; trying to conceptualize it beyond the label of One Great Year; trying to figure out the pieces of my story that led up to this moment of finding joy. I think the catalyst is Wisdom. I’m not claiming to have gained any “wise” status or to have reached the pinnacle of wisdom in the least. I just turned toward it and am basking in the truth. There’s this great book* that uses a metaphor to relate Wisdom to a woman who is standing on the street talking so everyone can hear, calling out the right way to happiness and contentedness, even. It says she existed before the earth did and that she is simple to find and available to all. Wisdom makes things easy and she is easy to see.
Before 32 I felt an endless searching. Who am I? Where can I find significance? Am I meant to be only a mom? Is there anything else by which I can find daily satisfaction? Then there were the constant guilt-ridden comparisons. I shouldn’t let my kids watch any tv because that’s what so-and-so does. I shouldn’t allow any sugar in the house because that’s what this-and-that friends do. In my Year 32 all of these struggles, internal conflicts, desires for more/different/better have found their peace. There are still struggles but they know where to find truth-answers. There are still battles but they stand up as though they’ve already won. There is assurance. And peace. And rest.
It was a couple of years into college when I went to summer camp with a group of high schoolers as a “counselor”. I was fun. I was carefree. I was naïve. I went into the week ready to play, smiling all the way. But when I got there I was confronted with reality. Girls who were dealing with more life than I’d ever known. Girls battling issues that I barely knew existed. And I felt weak. Unusable. Incapable. And then I had an encounter with God. In a few beautiful moments that are too complex and grand to articulate to the world wide web, I met God face to face. And I argued to him that I am too small, too sinful, too dumb to approach wisdom. And he said to me, “no, you are mine”.
This year, my 32nd, I finally understand what he meant.