Hi, My name is Sharon and I’m fifty years old today.  But that’s not my deepest story.

My name is Sharon and I’m an alcoholic — taking two steps forward and three steps back has been a part of this story.  But it’s not my deepest story.

Hi, I’m Sharon and I’m a workaholic.  I get a lot done, I crash, and start all over again.  It’s an exhausting story, but it’s not my deepest story.

I’m Sharon and I’m a people-pleaser.  As a result I neglect self-care and spend too much time worrying about what others think.  But that’s not my deepest story either.

I’m Sharon — lonely, needy, insecure, fifty-year-old, vulnerable, alcoholic Sharon — a sinner, saved by the Mercy, Grace, and Heart of God — Jesus.  And that is my deepest story.

Today I turn fifty!  I don’t feel fifty, and I’m not sure how you’re supposed to act when you’re fifty.  I’ve read all kinds of accounts about remarkable women who created beautiful art, invented life-saving vaccines, and wrote amazing books — all after they were fifty.  I also remember just a few years ago when Barbie celebrated her 50th.  As unrealistic as she is, I do admire all of her accessories!  I remember when my dad turned fifty and announced that his life was half-over.  When I protested he said, “Well, how many people do you know who are 100?”  I refuse to see my life as half-over, given all of the expensive supplements I choke down daily, and so I woke up this morning wondering what I want for my next fifty years.  I thought I might make a list of fifty things, but quickly dismissed that idea.  I knew that it would look like all of the New Year’s Resolution lists I make on December 31 and can’t find by January 5. 

There are three things that I can settle on that I want to be true today and more true every day of the next fifty years.  They are pretty simple, but since I don’t do the daily recommended Sudoku to keep the brain synapses firing, I need to keep it simple.

First, I want to live in the word “again” with peace and joy.  I am coming to believe that this word — again — is probably one of the most important and most difficult words to live in.  Whether it’s beginning a diet again, a relationship again, a letter to a long-lost friend again, an apology again, sobriety again, spending time with Jesus again.  To risk again, begin again, forgive again, believe again — to live in again – is to dwell in the possibilities.  One of my favorite artists, Brian Andreas, says it this way:  “Anyone can slay a dragon . . . but waking up every morning and loving all over again . . . that’s a real hero!”

Second, I want to never resist a generous impulse.  I have noticed in these tough economic times it is easy to count pennies, calculate my income for the week, and ignore my heart when I have the privilege of being with someone in need.  This past February I had the privilege of spending time with a wonderful man whose name is Chaplain Joe.  I spent about two hours complaining about all the loss I have experienced in the past years.  Chaplain Joe said, “Sharon, God is preparing you to reign with Him.”  Reign?  It felt more like I was being crushed.  I have meditated on Chaplain Joe’s confusing words and discovered that there is life in surrendering our suffering to Jesus, because where will we find Him?  Where there is heartache, sin, woundedness and confusion — there is our King, stooping to forgive an adulterous woman, having all the time in the world for little children, touching the wounds and sores of the sick and outcast, throwing parties for prodigals.  I want to partner with Him in such extravagant generosity. 

Finally, I want to be mindful of the words of George MacDonald: “Have you done one thing today that you know was done in obedience to Jesus?”  One thing.  I have learned this past year that this one thing is the only thing.  When I am not living in, looking for, longing to be obedient — my heart slowly hardens and I am cut off from my Source of Life and Light.  He’s not cut off from me, but I am from Him and that is a dark and lonely place.  This “one thing” is the only thing that allows me to fall more in love with Jesus. 

The forties were a decade of light and darkness, failure and success, unthinkable heartache and inexplicable grace.  I fell a little bit more in love with Jesus.  But I want more with Him — I want to be “captured by the power of a Great Affection.”  Perhaps living in the humility of “again”, reigning with Jesus as He washes the feet of the last and the least, and doing the one thing , the only thing, that keeps my heart available to be captured — obey — will make the next fifty years theLove Story God intended to be mine.  “Oh, unutterable love, even though you saw all the evils your creatures would committ against your infinite goodness, you acted as if you did not see and set you eye only on the beauty of your creature, with whom you had fallen in love like one drunk and crazy with love . . . . You are the fire, nothing but a fire of love, crazy over what you have made” (Catherine of Siena).

My brithday present — for the next fifty years is to hear the whisper of Jesus:  “Come then, my Beloved, my lovely one, come.  For see, winter is past.  The rains are over and gone.  Flowers are appearing on the earth.  The season of glad songs has come.  The fig tree is forming its first figs and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance.  Come then, my Beloved, my lovely one, come” (Song of Songs 2:10-13).