Life Lessons at Thirty

by Kalle Stinson

“If joy does not arise out of the midst of tragedy, it will not arise at all.  Christian joy is rooted in darkness, chaos, meaninglessness, sorrow…separate joy from sorrow and there’s nothing left.”  Mike Mason thirty

The beginning of my thirties crept up on me much like all of my life does.  The end of my twenties felt like the changing of the tide.  It moved towards me steadily and subtly.  I was parked in the sand, engulfed in an intense book and before I knew it the water was up over my legs and in my lap.  Just like that, I turned thirty.

I was knee deep in motherhood and church planting and house renovating for the last year of my twenties.  All the while I was deliberately wrestling with the Lord through understanding my own heart and his character after losing my son.  I was preoccupied to say the least.  But most everyone else reminded me, because people really love to talk about the milestone that thirty is. It’s the first real, defining decade.  I think the real marker that you are unequivocally an adult.  And without even thinking you immediately start evaluating your life.  Is this where I thought I’d be at thirty?  Was I going to be married and have moved across the country?  Was I really going to still have zits? Was I going to have had and lost babies, be a stay at home mom, have started a church?  You start to evaluate all you’ve done.  Measuring if you’re proud of your accomplishments or embarrassed that you’ve done nothing worthwhile.

I had been measuring in some form for the last three years.  In some ways, I became an adult at 26, the day my sons were born, one to life here and one to life in eternity.  I remember my wise and seasoned boss at the time saying about Shawn and me the day the boys were born, “They grew up today.”  Loss and tragedy have a way of forcing you out of the carefree, naïve days of childhood whether you’re ready or not.  What I had been evaluating since my forced entrance into adulthood was my stature as a woman of faith.  Was this who I thought I would be in the face of the truth that life here can be gut wrenchingly hard?  Was this who I wanted to be?  The answer to both was, no.  I thought I would be a woman who was sure of God, unshaken, and full of joy.  This is who I wanted to be.  And this was who I was not… yet.

I wasn’t able to experience labor with my sons because it was an emergency c section.  When I got pregnant with my daughter, I wanted to feel labor, fully.  I had the sense that in some way it would be healing for me to know my body could do this.  I could carry a baby to full term and my body could bring that baby into the world.  With this (and a few other factors) in mind I chose a natural birth.  Now, after 23 hours of labor, I can assure you that is the hardest I have ever worked, the most physical pain I have ever been in, and the most intense and exhausting experience of my life.  But that seemingly impossible, exhausting process is what makes us the moms we are so anticipating being.   My unwelcomed push into adulthood did the same.  It produced the very thing I wanted to be.

As far back as I can remember, every woman that elicited a slight sense of awe in me, every woman I’ve wanted to be like, shared an unshakable, joyful position with the Lord.  And if I dug, even slightly, into their story I would find heartache, loss, and struggle.  The glory they had around them and set before them was born out of burden. It is not a glory that rises from ease.  It rises out of affliction and trial.  This is why God describes glory as a weight, I think.  Glory is heavy and we cannot bear it on us if our spiritual muscles are weak.  These woman that I so wanted to emulate were strong not despite, but because of their struggle.  It was not their glory, but a glory that evidenced Jesus.

My friend Dawn is so familiar with Jesus and has such affection for him it’s hard to understand.  I am jealous of it.  Sometimes if I feel completely lost about who he is or what he would say to me in any given situation I’ll think, “What would Dawn say about Jesus to me right now?”  Because if she says it, it’s true of him.  I want to know Jesus like this because it makes her so full of hope, so assured, so able to run this race.  But her life has no shortage of unfulfilled longing and loss.  She is a beautiful woman with wisdom seeping out of her pores.  And even though she thinks that the Philadelphia, Eagles are the best sports team on the planet, we don’t count it against her because she is so hilarious and kind and nurturing and bright.  She is also forty and has never been married or had children.  This is a loss and longing that brings her sadness and confusion.  But it has made her press into knowing and understanding Jesus and life and meaning.  It is why she knows him the way she does.  It is, ultimately, what I am saying I am jealous of.  I am jealous of her disposition before the Lord, which she gained by trial.

I always think I can do stuff that I can’t.  I’ll watch the Olympics and be pretty certain that I am in good enough shape to give those swimmers a decent run for their money.  But when I actually put a bathing suit on (ouch), get in a pool and swim a lap (which, by the way is really two laps at my YMCA.  What a mean trick) it’s quickly clear that I am not in the shape I thought I was in.  This is what suffering is to our faith.  We think we have a good handle on our belief, but enter trial and we see how much training we really need in order to carry on.  These woman, like Dawn, have met that trial and endured, letting that road teach them who God is, and they came out with a faith so deeply planted they are much less shaken and much more filled with hope.

This is what my thirtieth year brought me.  The picture of what the weight of glory is.  And the final assertion that I want it.  I want glory even with all its weight.  I want to be like these women of faith.  I want to look at that day in my 26h year and say that’s when my faith began to firm up and my joy was born.

kalleMore about Kalle

Kalle Stinson lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. She graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelors in Journalism and from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary with a Masters in Counseling. She is a wife to a pastor, mother to Pearce, Cohen, and Loah, follower of Jesus, and self proclaimed foodie, but maybe just an eatie.

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3 Comments to “Life Lessons at Thirty”

  1. Hey, awesome post. I’m so sorry about the loss of your child.
    I liked what you said above about officially becoming an adult. I felt something like that when I started my 30s. Like “I guess I’m an adult now, but adulthood sure doesn’t feel like I thought it would.” It’s weird because I always thought I’d be a soccer mom by this time and drive a minivan. But God hasn’t given me children yet and I still drive my 2-door red sports car. But I’m ok with it. I’m spending this time pursuing Him and really, I know that there is nothing better than that. It’s just an odd feeling though.
    Again, I was blessed by your post. Thanks!

  2. […] Life Lessons at Thirty – “Loss and tragedy have a way of forcing you out of the carefree, naïve days of […]

  3. Kalle says:

    Jamie,

    Thank you for your comment. It is an odd feeling, evaluating where we thought we’d be… but I agree with you, ultimately there is no better place to be than where he has us. It’s hard to say that about suffering in the midst of it, but I can say now that I am have never experienced the love of the Lord like I have in suffering. I pray you feel him that way too.
    Thanks for taking time to comment