With the turn of the last calendar page of 2016, I find myself facing a birthday. The slippery days of my current age slide through my fingers like a squirming, wet fish, and, try as I might, I can’t hold on. This year I spent January 1 at Disney’s Magic Kingdom—perhaps my own feeble attempt to find the Fountain of Youth. After all, Ponce de Leon thought it was located in Florida. Maybe it is just guarded by an oversized mouse and his legion of fanciful soldiers?
Unable to find these magical waters, I returned home a few days later unchanged. (Unless the waters are contained in the canals of Splash Mountain. If so, then perhaps I swallowed a few drops by accident.) Yes, I returned home with delightful memories but also with an aching back, sore feet, and the desperate need for a very long nap. And my birthday was just that much closer.
I have never been one to worry terribly about aging. However, this year feels different. Not only am I on the downside of my forties, moving ever closer to a milestone birthday, but this year I will graduate a son. In May my firstborn will receive his high school diploma, and in the fall he will move away from home, leaving a very empty corner in my nest. This reminds me that the primary role by which I have defined myself for eighteen years is changing. Though it is just a chapter that is closing, it feels more ominous—like my story is edging toward its end.
The enemy of my heart is all over this notion. The idea first presents itself in the dark of night, as these sneaky, sinister thoughts often do, and I toss and turn as I wrestle with it. It assaults my peace of mind and steals my rest. In the light of day, it remains in the shadows and whispers in my ear with every opportunity. I submit to it whenever I dull my desire, dismiss a dream, or utter a sentence like, “It’s too late.”
The temptation is to see this new year as a season of loss. It sure feels like it. Things are changing; Seth will be leaving; and this golden time in our family is ending. “Loss, loss, loss,” the enemy whispers. And in the dark of another restless night, I lay awake, with a tear sliding down my cheek, and surrender, “Yes.”
But there’s another voice, kind and clear, urging me another way. It pricks my spirit to rise up within me and to declare, “No!” It gently assures me that this season is not about loss and it is not too late.
Instead of lamenting what might look like an end and feel like death, I am encouraged to ask God for a reinterpretation.
So, I ask, and he answers. God is generously providing this reinterpretation of the coming year. In fact, he is doing so lavishly, whimsically, intimately, and unmistakably. It has come through one of my theme words for 2017. It has arrived in an unexpected invitation. It has been spoken by my counselor through Scripture. It is shown in rekindled desire. And it is coming through letters that dear friends, steps ahead of me on this journey, are graciously writing.
God is reframing the year in a way that honors my grief while also extending hope. He is calling me to welcome each, trusting that my heart is large enough and strong enough to hold both. Most importantly, he is revealing himself in the process. Here is the loving Father I have longed to know; here is the intimate Savior who turns my gaze from fear to faith; and here is the sweet Spirit who counsels me in the dark of night, the edge of loss, and the shadow of despair.
As I abide in him, I hear his gentle voice assuring me, “For I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). With this promise, I turn toward the new year, full of the unknown, and I say, “Hello.”
Susan Tucker spends her days mothering her two teenage sons, teaching middle school English, and savoring rare moments of quiet and solitude. She lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, with her sons and her husband of 23 years. Susan finds life in a beautiful story, an authentic conversation, worship music, and ultimately, in Jesus, the giver of all good gifts.