For my fortieth birthday, I asked to go to the beach. Sand between my toes, a clear line of sight to a clear blue ocean, and creamy, sugary drinks by the pool.
So far, the week has been dreamy here, in San Pedro, Belize. Our dinners have been pulled in from fishing boats, laden with fresh seafood caught in the Caribbean Sea, and the chocolate shop down the street makes luscious dark chocolate truffles, the recipe allowing only for sugar and Kakaw grown here, on the island. My body is dark, and my heart is full.
Yesterday, we flew over one of many Belizian wonders, the Blue Hole. Deep royal blue swirling inside countless shades of turquoise make for this breathtaking site. From the airplane’s window seat, at least a few hundred feet away from the surface, its beauty is unparalleled.
But the true beauty of the Blue Hole, like so many geographical wonders crafted by our Creator, can only be appreciated if one looks beyond the surface. It sits in the middle of a ring of corals. Into the depths, down three or four hundred feet or so, is where one discovers brightly colored marine life gliding effortlessly through mysteriously shaped underwater plant life, gently rocking in sync with the water’s rhythm. Divers from all over the world travel here to explore the Southern rim, where giant stalactites, golden dripstone sheets, and aging columns stand. These underwater formations are prehistoric, thought to have formed in a dry cavern above sea level during the glacial periods as late as 15,000 years ago.
I think turning forty is like this.
It feels like it sits in the middle of something, what I hope is the middle of my life’s time here, with the people I love. The depth is where the beauty lies, beyond the surface of skin texture and hair color. And the history, where it all started, well, it’s unlikely story, really.
It goes back further than my family tree records, which isn’t very far. The story of my turning forty is only possible because of a grace-giving, full of forgiveness, well aware of my deficits, well-meaning and well-loving God who knew from the beginning that He would give me today.
When I turn around to look behind me at the days that stand way back in my past, when I achingly wished for less — a thinner frame, a smaller number on the scale, reduced calories on my mental record of food intake, or even less struggle or pain in this journey we call life — I recognize something. I am not being summoned to simply walk away from living smaller. I am being invited to grow.
Instead of taking up less space, I dare to take up more. Instead of reducing the amount of grace I receive, I dare to open my arms wider to better bear the weight of heavy, full-on, Jesus-crucified Grace. Instead of whispering, I dare to speak up.
Here’s to a year worth celebrating. I’ll likely bump against some hard edges as I attempt to find my way, aging one day and one year and one decade at a time. But I’ve got some good years coming. I would have never guessed it could be this good.