This is a strange birthday for me. I can’t quite put into words why. I think I feel a little old. Sort of. But that’s not even right. Do I feel irrelevant? No, that’s not it. As I continue my journey in ministry, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more…part of something, and that equals relevancy. I don’t physically look any different than I did yesterday, and I’m determined to age with grace and flair. I’m pleased by the style and sense of fashion I’ve cultivated, so it’s nothing to do with wardrobe or makeup. Is it because of the pandemic and the never-ending anxiety? Maybe. Is it because I’m annoyed with myself, realizing that I should have been in this place spiritually and vocationally several years ago? Let’s not touch that one.
All I know for sure is that there’s an unsettledness about my spirit today. Which is great timing for the Enemy of my soul to come after me from different angles. It’s also great timing for me to have finished my read-through of the psalms.
I won’t lie: It was a slog at points. I decided to slowly and contemplatively work my through these pages after being challenged at the end of my first semester of seminary to consider approaching the Bible in a new way. I am all about in-depth study and nerdy discussion. I love context and history and original word meanings. To take myself away from that and shift toward something more emotion-oriented was challenging. To sit and read a few lines and then wait to see if the Holy Spirit drew my attention to a specific word or phrase pressed every impatient button I have. Some days, I allowed the impatience to rule and didn’t engage as I should. Some days, I skipped completely, and then had to play catch-up.
“Praise the LORD!” The final words of this collection of poems and songs. After most of a year in and among the lines, a frustrated feeling rises within me. Yes. Praise God. Is that it? Is that how this thing ends?
I sense God smiling at me. Of course that’s it. Of course that’s how this thing ends. Of course that’s how it starts, and how the middle goes. That is the point. That is the message. Praise God.
Be in relationship with God.
Orient your life around God.
Tell others about God.
Love as God loves.
I think we expect something grander or more complicated. Or at least I do. But the essence of our faith is astoundingly simple: Humanity fell and could not get up, so God came and helped us to our feet. We get lost in terms and theology (seriously, I love both of those things and fully believe that right doctrine is important), but the question that we’re left with at the end of the day is just this: Did I praise God? In my feeling, my thinking, my moving? In my interactions with creation, both human and non-human? Is my life oriented around the One who Saves?
That’s what the psalms do for us. They record the meeting of human and Divine in ways that move beyond logic and narrative and address the heart, where emotions rage and longings compete for attention. Over and over again (sometimes in frustratingly repetitive fashion), they tell us to praise God. Focus on God. Come back to God.
I wrote in my bible, at the end of this book:
Finishing out this read-through was definitely an act of clenched-teeth discipline. But I am grateful for the example of these authors choosing to turn to You again and again. They did not always get it right. In fact, they often got it wrong. They fell into ditches, sometimes by their own actions, sometimes not – just like me. They were in need of Your grace and love, as I am. They had to reorient, as I do.
God, You are faithful to draw me back to You, over and over. I want to be faithful to return, and better yet to not turn away in the first place. I want to be an agent of the grace and the love that I need so desperately. I want to spend my life in Your service, every breath and ounce of it. I belong to You. I am Your child, and I am designed to declare Your goodness and praise.
I am thirty-six today, and maybe the unsettledness I feel is a holy thing. Maybe the God who lovingly created me is stirring in my soul. Maybe it’s time for me to set aside comparisons and competitions and condemnations and just go.
That’s what I would tell you, dear reader, if you were to ask me if I’ve gained any wisdom at this point. Just go. What is God calling you to? Do that. Careers, houses, relationships, they’re all fine and dandy, but the only thing that will satisfy you, the only thing that will enable you to become the complete person God intends you to be, is to allow God to occupy the center of your life. I don’t know what that looks like for you. It’s a little different for each of us, which is exceptionally beautiful. You don’t have to be me and I don’t have to be you.
All the love another human has to offer won’t fill up your heart.
All the money in your bank account won’t secure your future.
All the best a contractor can build into a house won’t satisfy your need for a home.
All the positions and titles won’t soothe your longing for significance.
Again, none of those things are bad. They just aren’t the point.
The point is God.
Surrender yourself to God.
5 thoughts on “When I’m Thirty-Six”
Happy Birthday. No greater gift than to have God in our lives . Thanks 🙏
Happy 36th birthday, sweet Marie! Praying that you will always be a “straight shooter” for the Lord!
My age, it is not relevant,
and really, nor am I,
but I have seen the elephant,
and I’m not prepared to die,
for cancer’s just another fight
(I’ve had so very many!),
and I shall keep my honour bright
as new-minted penny
by rising when I am struck down,
by facing hell with open eyes,
by bearing pain without a frown
and eschewing sad goodbyes,
for though I may not see September
I don’t know how to spell ‘surendir’.
We all have our unique challenges in our journey with God, but I’m 30 years older than you, almost exactly. Not sure that counts for something, but it’s true. Happy Birthday.
I have now for many years followed you from afar as I am a Informed and fully practicing Roman Catholic; and an active catechist for about 30 years now.
I have often resisted an urge to share something with you; because I sense your sincerity and Love of Jesus; and THIS we share.
Protestants for 500 years have been struggling with “how to read (interpret that as how to rightly understand what the NT Authors intended to convey). Because I know the answer to “your search”; I felt, in charity, compelled to share it with you…
It is indisputable that the Bible is a Catholic Birthed book… Five of the NT authors were (are) Apostles; Matthew; John; James, Paul and Peter..
The NT was authored by Catholic Men; to and FOR other Catholics, which is historically evidenced by the fact that ALL of the Apostles were killed prior to the end of the first Century; when the Bibles NT was fully authored, hence the ONLY way one can obtain a correct understanding of the Bible (and avoid a further proliferation of Protestant churches each with it’s set of faith-beliefs based upon what THEY think the bible says.)… The ONLY way to get a correct understanding is to place oneself in the time and mind of the authors; from Catholics to and for other Catholics who were the ONLY Christians for about one thousand years and the GREAT EASTERN SCHISM of 1054 AD.
May our Precious LORD guide your path,
To Jesus THROUGH Mary,