I’m turning thirty-six today, which used to be considered mid-life, but not now that we’re living longer. Now the middle point’s at forty-five, and perhaps it’s even later for women. So I won’t be getting a red convertible this year. Not that I’m going to want one when I’m forty-five either….
I feel far from crisis. In fact, thirty-six feels like a comfortable age, a forgiving age. I handle myself with a little more grace than I used to. When I look into the mirror, I no longer rush in to examine every flaw. I step back a bit, and I don’t allow myself to focus on every imperfection. And even with the deficiencies in view, I have a strange gratitude.
When I was in college there was this guy–an international student–who would always try to pick me up (along with countless other women) by using the unforgettable line: “Aahh… now you have child-bearing thighs.” He continued to use the opener, even though I’m sure the look of horror on my face could translate across all cultures.
But I think of the words now, and they have new meaning. They still make a deplorable pick-up line, but I smile when I think about them. My belly’s never been flat, but now wonder has replaced the self-hatred. I have more fascination when I look at it. Mine was never supposed to be flat. It was supposed to be the place where my daughter was formed. It did its job well.
And the grace extends to the interdependence of my being.
I remember first reading Karl Barth, the words moved me deeply as I began to understand God as an act, more than a being. I had a childhood full of harsh, abusive images of God as an angry patriarch. But as I read, I learned to release my vengeful noun for loving verbs. I began to relate to God’s self-description, “I am who I am.” Even more than that, I embraced to the beauty of the words, “God is love.” I started to understand that the very being of God is ever-flowing action.
While growing into adulthood, I longed for independence. But just as I came to that freeing understanding of God, I learned that my own being is made up of action. I can no longer be myself without the interdependence of community–the connection of friends and family–because that’s where love abounds. I understood that just as I am in the image of God, so my being is made more full in doing, in loving and being loved.
And on this Eve of the incarnation, I feel another shift, as the nouns and verbs are beginning to mix together. God’s skin allows God to walk among us, to get entangled in the human messiness of love, with all of its passion and betrayal. And as love takes on bone, I can begin to understand the beauty of imperfect flesh and the allure of living in complicated community.
photo’s by nerdvin