Our family went to a wedding earlier this month, and it was the first one in a while where the kids were also invited. Naturally, they were all really excited and so was I, especially for the “dance party” we told them that would follow the ceremony. We have dance parties at our house all the time and about half of our life is a musical. It’s what keeps us sane. We all love to dance, and when it comes to weddings, my husband and I are usually the first and last ones on the dance floor.
This dance party, however, was on a whole nother level for all of us.
Understandably so, at least for the kids, because they had never been to a wedding reception before. They are used to dancing in our bedrooms with natural sunlight and VBS music playing from my iPhone—not hip hop and rap blasting through loud speakers and neon lights shooting out from different directions while highlighting that one crazy guy protruding his buttocks and swinging it around everywhere. They were stunned and stood frozen in the middle of the dance floor for 95% of the time with that glazed over look and mouths hung open.
I, on the other hand, felt right in my element and got my dance on as usual. Feeling the rhythm of all the catchy songs, I got down and felt great. But it was only really great for all of about two songs. Then I felt myself slow down. One by one, my body parts entered this sloth-like slow-mo trance until I, too, stood completely still beside my children gazing outward at the whirlwind of people around us.
I felt old.
I looked at the younger ones around me and saw them swirling around as smooth as Jellow and with more and more energy with each new song that the DJ ripped from his sound board.
Goodness, I thought, even just a couple years ago I was one of them.
But this week I turned 32. Honestly 30 and 31 felt no different from the years before, and I was actually excited for my 30s. Yet this year was different. Quite unexpectedly, I experienced many mixed emotions with getting another year older, even feelings of fear.
It started with some recent events that took me back to places of my past, places that were once life as I knew it. The windy back roads I used to speed down on the way to friends’ houses in high school. The house I grew up in as a child with the worn but sturdy basketball hoop cemented into our driveway. The cafe I studied at each day after school in the same corner where I mostly looked through Cosmopolitan magazines and people-watched the many who came by. Lastly, the university campus I once attended and knew as home but was now full of a fresh new student body, the 10th graduating class since my own graduation 10 years ago.
Has it really already been 10 years?
Driving through campus was nostalgic, and I could almost smell the scent of each building I passed—the iconic Mckeldin library in the middle of campus, the musty math building right around the corner, the cafeteria carrying the aroma of late night fried foods, and more.
At the mere sight of each of these places, memories came rushing back and each one felt so fresh and familiar yet strangely old like a rose that had been hung to dry—they were still there just how I left them, yet now, they were nothing more, really, than still memories, dried up and hanging in my mind. They have all become part of my past, a vast horizon I look back on and at most, perhaps feel some kind of distant connection.
All these things that once were so real in my life have passed, and just like that, there stood 32 years’ worth of memories from when my life first started.
Suddenly, I realized I was now middle age, teetering somewhere in the middle of the top of the hill in between my beginning and my end, and I had to pause in trying to come to terms with the idea that I will quickly one day be over the hill.
I wondered to myself, Am I now standing closer to the end of my life rather than to the beginning? Am I already on my way down?
This is when fear came into the picture. In thinking about this, I had fleeting yet very real moments where my heart beat a bit quicker, my breathing became shallow, and little drips of terror trickled down my back.
I thought, Soon, my body will begin to fail along with everything else, everything will slowly weaken, everything will shut down (just like on that dance floor), and I will be nothing. Just like every memory of my life and everything else in this world that has passed, I, too, will pass.
Then my grandma’s nurse called me. She wanted me to translate while she checked on my grandma’s many medications and health conditions. After about 10 minutes of verifying everything, my grandma then cheerfully came onto the phone and rather than any complaints of her ailments, she told me about all the things she had won while playing bingo. She said she had prayed and pleaded with God to win so that she would have gifts for the kids. Then, because it was almost 4 pm which is her time to talk with God, she abruptly said she had to go and hung up before I could say goodbye.
Wow, I thought, she is really something else. She is out of this world.
That’s when I realized, That’s right, I AM NOT OF THIS WORLD EITHER.
Immediately, I was jerked back up from that steep, dark hill I had been peering down with death at the end of it, and I told myself, I am NOT going down that hill.
No, I’m going where my grandma’s going—where she’s BEEN going. At the age of 87, she is more alive than anyone I know. In a way, I see more life in her than I do in my little kids, because with every year that has passed, she has grown more alive in her spirit. She holds onto nothing but Christ Himself and glories in everything that is a loss because, to her, that is gain. In her most frail moments, she clings to Jesus and worships Him for being her perfect strength in her weakness and gives thanks for being one step closer to seeing Him face to face. She welcomes the death of her body, whenever that may be, and is excited to be completely and wholly with her Savior. In this way, she rises above everything, even that wretched hill and its dead end pit that calls out to all of us.
She never went down that hill but has been rising from glory to glory and shines brighter today than when she first started.
Thank you grandma and thank you Jesus for paving the way that goes above and beyond the hill and into the heavenly realm, the way that overcomes this life and death, and the way that has saved us all and given us access to the Father in heaven. Because that’s where I’m going.
“Do not love the world or anything in the world... The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:15-17