The Big 5-0

I found this picture of Stevie Nicks on Facebook yesterday. I dragged it onto my desktop because I liked it. I didn’t know the purpose of keeping it, only, I didn’t want to forget. It seemed monumental somehow. And sure enough by today, it was. Because backlit by Scripture, these words take on new meaning…

And here, at the tail end of my forties, the lines become personalized. Internalized. Just now, as the big 5-0 looms large. Yes, in a handful of days, I’ll be fifty.

Anyhow, the haunting lyrics move me in a way they never did in my twenties and thirties. Not even a few months back when I sang along…

Only now.

Maybe because Sunday’s a milestone day, I find myself reflecting on the past. Memories of the little girl I was assault me. Some humorous, some endearing, and some not so good. In fact, just yesterday a thought popped into my head as I traveled down old familiar pavement, “This is the road where I began to feel so bad about me.”

And I did. From the time I went forth from the security of my home, I began to see others as better. Greater. That’s because God made me quiet and reserved. And while biding my time in shadows and corners, I deemed myself less. Hiding and blending, those who walked in the light shone. They led and I became the sidekick. Second chair. And without the aid of liquid courage, I couldn’t open my mouth in social settings. Not one word to share.

Anyway, it was a young age when I began setting friends on pedestals they never asked to be placed upon. But the one I put there was always the same. Funny and outgoing. Such personality. Beautiful and bold. And always, she could talk. Oh my goodness, did my friends have something to say. But mostly, I did not. I swear it was one of my greatest weaknesses, the inability to communicate. And it was always “her” greatest strength.

Oh, there was envy and jealousy behind my love. And I hid this ugliness deep in my heart. Never shared how I wished I was just like them. And so, when I left home at nineteen, I tried. And with Stevie Nicks’ voice reverberating in my ear, I see how I built my life around them. Because I attempted to mold myself to their form. Thirty years of adjusting me to them.

But it’s just as Stevie croons…

Time makes you bolder and children get older. And I’m getting older, too. Oh, this moves me as I near fifty. Just a handful of days more. The change I’ve feared, though? It’s becoming me again. This is what I’ve resisted most of my adult life.

“When a strong man keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace.” Luke 11:21

It was Spring and I was seventeen. That’s when I began to not just dislike me, but hate me. I went through a darkness that lasted months. It was so noticeable, a teacher, Mrs. Herman, pulled me aside as she pointed to my photo in the yearbook. “Pam, you see this girl here? She’s gone. Is she ever coming back?”

I looked at my face smiling up at the camera, and shrugged. I didn’t have an answer. But she was right because the girl I’d been had disappeared. She just faded away. It was this particular memory that brought the above verse fully into focus today. And though I never would have described myself as strong, I certainly had some strengths. We all do. Gifts or talents or characteristics particular to us…

But see, my flawed perception viewed another’s “goods” or substance as better. More. Thus, I did a poor job of “keeping,” or guarding, my own. I tell you, I was surprised when I learned palace means himself, herself, own self. And this becomes God’s revelation of the week because I see it’s deeper than me just not wanting to be me when I was young. Now I know I didn’t keep me. In searching for something greater, I let me go. It was my choice.

After thirty years, I look back with such clarity. And God’s word is what brings everything into focus. Because this one verse is just the tip of the iceberg. Through quiet times and hours alone with Him, He took me deeper and deeper into His book. And the turning of those pages brought me closer and closer to the heart of me. Who He created me to be. Indeed, He brought me back to myself.

And here’s the most miraculous thing…

See, that landmark birthday looms. The big 5-0. And it feels just like He’s giving me myself as His gift. The miracle (at least in my eyes) is that the God of all creation kept me all the years I didn’t. And how incredible that He’s been giving parts of me back. For a few years now…

Piece by piece, until I find I am whole once more. Complete restoration.

Yes, my palace is restored, for He kept me. And as my forties come to a close, I find peace and my goods intact.

He did this for me.

I have to come back to Stevie. Oh, I’m sure her lyrics mean something else altogether, but this is how they move me today. It culminates here…

See, I spent thirty years building. A self-made woman, building my life around those I esteemed. My aim was to be just like them. Very vocal and very visible. Because in my eyes, this is what made someone truly great. In fact, loud is one of the definitions of great in the passage below. But I’m not. Not showy. By nature, quiet. And so, I’ve struggled my whole life.

Reconciling what’s great and what’s not. Trying to be great, but not me.

And to be clear and fair, many women are built this way. Bold and loud and visible. They’re usually who I gravitate toward. My opposite. Oh, so fun. But now that I’m nearly grown, I can see our differences are good, not something to strive for. Yes, I can see that now. And different doesn’t mean better. Both forms good because God designs each.

Thus, I’m finding acceptance on the backside of forty, settling into myself as I never did at seventeen.

And it’s a good way to be.

ā€¦ whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. Matthew 20:26-28.

Oh, I’ve been slow to grasp truth…

But God never gave up. And His word is like a hammer (Jeremiah 23:29). It’s alive and active and pierces like nothing else (Hebrews 4:12). And Jesus? Well, He’s a wrecking ball. Backlit by Stevie’s lyrics, the above passage discloses this truth today.

I discovered ransom comes from a word meaning to loose what is compacted or built together. To break up, demolish. This floors me. More, I comprehend this happened. Because Jesus wrecked me. He’s demolished what I tried to build around others and provided me a true building plan.

Yes, in His upside down way, Jesus reveals true greatness is not what any of us think, anyway.

And this comforts me like nothing else.

I’m sure this all sounds silly. A forty-nine year old woman musing on such. Especially in light of the state of the world and the true problems out there. But see, my birthday is right around the corner. It’s a big one. Perhaps that’s why all these memories assail me.

I’m pleased, though, for I find a boldness I never knew in my twenties and thirties. And as my forties take a bow, I find I have the courage to change. Only, I turn back to the form that fit me best all along…

It’s where I find true joy. In the quiet and reservedness. And here in the shadows, I’ve begun tending to vacant and dormant places. The inner chambers of my palace and everything I house inside. Because after thirty years, He finally broke my bent. In repenting. I turn back to the girl I was meant to be. And who I used to be. Before I left me behind.

Thus, it’s true. God gave me back myself. And how fitting since a landmark birthday nears.

Or should I say a landslide one…

In closing, I ask a favor. Please, if anyone knows Mrs. Herman, my math teacher from eleventh grade, I hope you’d tell her something for me. Because she wanted to know if I was ever coming back. Please tell her quite miraculously, I have.

Just in time for the big 5-0.

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