How to Grow Old Without Feeling Old

How to Grow Old

April is my birthday month. It’s the big 5-0 for me this year. And it’s bigger than ever.

A milestone, indeed. One I’d dreaded for years if I’m completely transparent, because well, that’s often when both time and memory start passing quicker, and when doctors start recommending some weird screening tests {think colonoscopy}.  And although folks everywhere say it, how fifty is the new forty, no matter how energetically I choose to embrace life, fifty is still fifty, and for years that has felt old to me. Very old.

I guess fifty can’t help but seem ancient when you have a mid-life crisis at twenty-five. Yes, I really had a meltdown triggered by an identity crisis on my 25th birthday. To be fair, it was a difficult time that held more questions than answers, a time I started noticing how very fast life really moved.

The countless mistakes and overlooked opportunities, they haunted me.

I cried on my 25th birthday. For days. I cried until someone ultimately spoke a Truth strong enough to permeate the overwhelm. And some of those same tears leaked again this month as I pondered the passing days, the time fading like shadows. If there was a  way to catch them, to hold these days longer, I couldn’t find it, and I was losing hope.

How do you grow old without feeling old? 

Funny isn’t it—how lies can still tempt your freedom? I whispered it the other day to a friend, how I’ve sort of lost track of me. For a while now, I’ve spent these days trying to be so many things to so many people that I’ve sort of forgotten who I am. I noticed how I’d been playing it safe lately, sometimes writing easier words, those soft enough to please many while holding back some of what might offend.

But that’s really not me. I’m a girl who often lovingly challenges my friends to positive change, exposing fears and revealing things we sometimes won’t tell ourselves. {I also love when the challenge is reciprocated as a loving offense can often nurture a deeper growth.}

It’s what we tend to do: develop this concept of who we think we should be, spend our days presenting that to the world.

That’s not God’s plan.

God graces us a freedom to be ourselves. A grace we can’t always feel and one sometimes hard to accept, but Grace nonetheless. It’s taken me these fifty years to understand this, how it’s not what I do that matters so much after all. It’s who I am–who God created me to be that matters most.

This rite of passage I’ve dreaded for so long actually deserves a celebratory marking. You see, after that initial tantrum I find myself settling into this new awareness: how fifty is not so bad if you’re willing to embrace it. And no, this is not some sort of pop psych I’ve used to trick my mind past the denial and depressing thoughts. It’s a fresh perspective, one that’s teaching me how I probably have less time to spend on this earth than I have already lived, and that understanding offers me a permission I’ve never been willing to risk.

It’s sort of a Grace-awakening, this belated blessing I’ve gifted myself for my fiftieth. It’s the only way I know to describe this new comprehension of God’s grace, this understanding of how His opinion of me is the most important and should ultimately guide my choices, feelings, and decisions.

It’s about time I stopped making the opinion of others bigger than God’s.

I’m thankful for the introspection this birthday brought, no matter the number of days passed, for it’s ultimately landed me with a Grace that’s wooing me  back to my true self.

Deeper Still: Do you ever feel like the days are passing too quickly? Like there’s not enough time, or that your story is over? How  do you ground yourself in the Truth that God isn’t finished yet? Won’t you share in the comments section below?

{Find more encouragement with Jo Ann’s recently released book, When A Woman Finds Her Voice: Using Your Story to Make a Difference.}

18 thoughts on “How to Grow Old Without Feeling Old

  1. I LOVE this as I have been struggling with the same issues. The Lord also, in your words, reinforced the “it is not what you do, it is who you are”.

    However, I would dearly love to see a follow up to this post regarding what EXACTLY you meant. At first it sort of sounded like you meant “be true to the person who the Lord made you….if you are a thinker of deep thoughts, be a thinker of deep thoughts. If the Lord made you to paint, then paint”. It seemed to be a bit more of a practical choosing of one activity that is more “you” over another activity that is less you.

    But then it seemed to be more 100% a spiritual growth thing as opposed to a “working out in practical terms who the Lord made you to be to glorify Him”. It seemed to change from using talents and abilities and desires He has given you to ensuring that we are being obedient and pleasing to Him with avoiding sin.

    I just wondered which specifically you were referring to 🙂 Thank you for your wonderful writing and I am thankful that the Lord has reinforced a lesson for me here! 🙂

    • It seems that you, my friend, are a sister deep-thinker. 🙂

      I do believe it’s both simultaneously. The choice to be who the Lord made us to be, to use the talents and abilities he gave us as an act of obedience. And that when we walk in the fullness of who he designed us to be, he extends a grace that covers us when we shy away from the original plan.

      I imagine it’s a divine intersection of sorts, this point where our passions and talents intersect with his plans for us. I believe he gracefully tuck those desires into our hearts at the beginning and that by nurturing them, paying close attention to them, we can walk in the fullness of who he created us to be.

      Absolutely love seeing your thoughts here. Engaging. <3

  2. Jo Ann, I am less than a year and a half away from sixty and thoughts similar to yours have been swirling in my head. I remember the Word hidden in my heart and focus on that ~ clarity and wisdom come. God has promised that even in my old age He will carry me, sustain me, use me and cause me to bear fruit for Him. I look back over forty years and see all the ways He has led me and provided for me, I look to the future with hope and confidence knowing His Presence within me shines brighter each and every year as I learn to die to more of my self and put away childish things. All of my times are in His hands and He knows the way I take. Focusing on the inner struggle of ‘I am nearly 60 and most of my time to accomplish anything of value is gone’ is being fixated on a lie from the enemy and serves no good purpose. Choosing whom we will serve today also applies to our thought life…I choose to serve the Lord my God and honor Him with thoughts in keeping with the ones He has for me! I want to be one of those old ladies with fire in their bones, one who proclaims and testifies of the great things God has done and encourages others to know Him so they can trust Him and rest in His love. As one nearly a decade older than you Jo Ann, I encourage you to consider fifty as your Year of Jubilee and to live it with eyes wide open in wonder as you watch our amazing God doing amazing work in your life.

    • This is beautiful, Jeannie. You are beautiful!

      And I love that — the Year of Jubilee. May my eyes remain open wide with wonder.

      Thank you for such encouragement.

  3. I’ve just hit 56 in March and I keep telling everyone I’m 55. Perhaps I’m in denial that the years keep piling on. 😉 One thing I have learned in this decade…God has so much more for me! This seems to have been my year of realizing I’ve only just begun. It’s time to plug up the ‘ears’ of my heart and soul to the lies that the enemy throws our way in this season of life…that we are past our prime, too old to accomplish much, we wasted so many years and it’s too late now. NO! I know that there is so much more in this season of my life. I’ve finally earned the right to be heard…my past, the years, the failures and the victories…those experiences are my ‘badge of wisdom’. That in and of itself is a big deal! No…I have not ‘arrived’. I have so much more growing, exploring, and asking of the Lord to do. But I look to the future as the BIG ADVENTURE that will lead me eventually into the very presence of my sweet Lord and Savior and that is something not to dread, but to look forward to with joyful anticipation!! Love your words my friend!!

    • Plugging up the lies myself, friend. Receiving and believing the truth that God has just gotten started in us. 🙂


  4. I can relate Jo Ann. In 13 days I’ll be 60! Yes, the days are passing too quickly. Seems like just last year I was celebrating my 50th. Happy 50’s to a fellow April baby!

  5. So I know I’m not near 50 but I feel like I’ve lived through a lot of miles for just being 33. My mom has never been afraid of her age and I guess I look at life the same way. It’s hard for me to think of getting older but at the same time I have women in my life who are older than me that feed me with so much wisdom and truth. I want to be that for other women too. We learn from experiences and some days I’m overwhelmed by the life God has gotten me through. But when I see other women walking hard paths and sharing their experiences it makes me brave.
    That’s a long winded way of saying I hope to mature through each season of life and be grateful that I’m here to experience each and every one.

    • You’re an old soul, indeed, Ms. Sarah Knepper. It’s hard for me to believe sometimes that you aren’t older than me with the wisdom that leaks from your heart. <3 Yes, that we would mature in our seasons and let gratitude rule our days. A perfect birthday wish.

  6. God has so generously give me people like you to me so that I may learn and understand that your life isn’t over until your last breath (and it isn’t even far from over after, blessing!) and He wants us to live our lives for him , every day, pointing others to him. For so long I suffered with the question of “what is my purpose here?” and how that affected my personal every day realtionships. What I know now is that God will use me and my story in any way He pleases (ultimately it’s His story anyway) and all I have to do is be ready and hang on, because it’s going to be the ride of my life. And by doing so, I live the way He wants me to.

    Did I even answer your questions? I kinda went off on a tangent. 😉

    • Your tangent is beautiful. As are you. And yes, that we would be characters in HIS story! That’s the thrill of life for us, the joy that propels us into each day no matter our age.

  7. Wow, Jo Ann, you’ve been doing some heavy lifting, and I’m so glad you did. Only a few years younger, I need to hear this, to ponder and apply the message of no longer “making the opinion of others bigger than God’s.”

    Thinking on Paul’s words: “My eager expectation and hope is that I will not be ashamed about anything, but that now as always, with all boldness, Christ will be highly honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For me, living is Christ and dying is gain. Now if I live on in the flesh, this means fruitful work for me; and I don’t know which one I should choose. I am pressured by both. I have the desire to depart and be with Christ—which is far better–but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.” (Philippians 1:20-24). You are doing great things here, my friend.

  8. Mine is a little different. I can’t escape the feeling that time is passing so quickly lately, and that our time on Earth is short. I wonder if I will be ready to live out Gods plan on my life, or if I will find myself horribly unprepared before our time is up, and waste what I have been given. I have to stop and remind myself that God said it would happen and He can’t lie. So it will certainly happen before He returns.

    So for me it is not as much about my age, as about the fact that as Christians we still have lots to do before Jesus returns. People who need to hear how Jesus can change everything, and lately that is my hearts burden.

    • “God said it would happen, and He can’t lie.”

      Oh Deanna, yes! That we would be prepared to live out the plan He has for us!

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