Contentment at Thirty

I’m thirty. Yes, I admit it, and though I may be willing to admit my age, I have a difficult time accepting it. Unlike the popular movie 13 Going on 30, I don’t have a successful career as a magazine editor, and I don’t live in a high rise in New York. The reality is I still live in a rental, I’m not in my dream job, and I struggle each month to pay the bills. From a bird’s eye view, I am not thirty, flirty, and thriving.

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But I am happy, and that should count for something. Even if it doesn’t show up in the ledger lines, the bottom line is that I balanced. I have an intelligent, funny, adoring husband and a smart, sweet, adorable son. I am surrounded by family and friends that support me, and I have a job that enables me to make a lasting impact in the lives of children of all ages – even if it doesn’t pay the bills.

So why does it still feel like I missed the successful 30 mark?  Unfortunately, society has inflicted on me a standard of success that is almost impossible to achieve. According to Property Brother’s criteria (one of my favorite television shows), I should have granite counter tops, an under mounted sink, and a walk-in closet the size of an office. Meanwhile, I would be excited just to have a dishwasher. It’s all in your perspective.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that there is more to life than possession. I am encouraged by Paul, a man who spent his life in pursuit of God’s kingdom. He was homeless. He was imprisoned. He spent most of his life and ministry in transition. He was brave. He was also human. I wonder if Paul ever pined after a haven of his own with a hearth to warm his cold, tired feet.

Paul writes to the church at Rome, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2, NLT)

Even though my stainless steel-less kitchen might not please my coworkers, it can be pleasing to God. If in my kitchen, God finds me reflecting on his will over cups of coffee, pouring out blessings along with my son’s milk, and cementing relationships with a meatloaf, my life is pleasing and perfect.

But the struggle to be content is real. My husband and I have had many a tearful discussion about our current status. He is logical and calculating, and when education and experience fail to produce a better job or a better salary, he becomes discouraged. It isn’t always easy for me either, but I try to encourage him that disappointment and failure are part of life, and persistence, hope, and hard work make us who we are. The truth is we will look back on this time, where we have exchanged dining and movies out for Kraft dinners and Netflix as some of the best times of our lives.

Why is it that humanity has such a hard time being content with life’s circumstances? Why is it so difficult to live and be happy in the present?

Ecclesiastes 3:11 states,

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” (NLT)

We are limited by our own humanity. Our thoughts wander, our flesh fails, our hearts forget. We literally cannot comprehend God’s plan for us. But he has one.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Turning 30 or 42 or 56 doesn’t have to be so bad, because God’s promises are timeless.

I’m not saying that all the hype about being thirty is implicitly bad.  Milestones and benchmarks can play an important role in our lives. The experiences we have had help us to express our humanity, find meaning in life, and motivate us to continue the beautiful journey that God has placed us on. In my twenties, I completed two graduate programs, learned a new language, walked the Golden Gate Bridge, swam in the Mediterranean Sea, and gazed at the Grand Canyon, but I also sang lullabies to my son, witnessed sunrises with my husband, shared the love of Christ with strangers, and watched new and old friends be baptized.

Often I find myself reflecting on my accomplishments, as if they define me. I wish I could list them all out like a resume and show the world what I know, where I’ve been, and who I’ve met. Maybe then they would understand me better or respect me more.  But I know, deep within me, that I am not defined by what I have done, how old I am, or what I possess. My worth is found in Christ, and Christ is all I need. I would like to capture this moment, this time of simplicity, when no acknowledgement, piece of paper, amount of money, or any other societal standard dictates that I am successful or happy, because I am. I am thirty, and I am happy.

So this year, my thirtieth year of life, I am going to pay my bills, and clean my kitchen, and work hard at my job. I am going to go on picnics, and give puppet shows to my one-year-old, and hold hands with my husband, and be perfectly content and thankful that my life is exactly the way it is. Thank you, God, for thirty.

“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:7

 


 

About the Author

6Carrie Freeman

Hi! My name is Carrie Freeman. I am Christ-follower, wife, and mother. I have spent the last seven years learning and teaching about God throughout the United States and Southeast Asia. I earned my masters’ in theology and intercultural studies. This past year, I moved back to my hometown and became a new mom. Now I find myself in a small town trying to find God’s purpose for me. Currently, I work for Save the Children, teaching literacy to impoverished and at-risk children. I am passionate about missions, literacy, and of course my adorable baby boy.