I sometimes ask myself if every woman has a reawakening after 40 or if it was just me due to the coincidence of timing when some of the people closest to me let me down, broke my heart, and forced me to, as part of picking myself back up, begin a journey of rediscovering myself.
Either way, on the other side of 40, I started to see life differently. It wasn’t all bad by any means. In fact, I wish I could have seen life through the lens of post-40 earlier—maybe it would have saved me some sleepless nights and too many tears.
Part of my journey to rediscover myself after 40 was to reconnect with the community of the church. I had always believed in God, but my relationship with the church was something I had struggled with. But as I was going through a new identity crisis post-40 and trying to figure out who I was, my 11-year-old daughter was on her own journey of discovery and wanted to try a church.
I let her lead the way. She picked the church based on a friend’s good reviews of it and I started taking her. While she would go downstairs to the kids’ service, I would often sit alone in the nave with the rest of the adult congregation. At a time in my life when I could have felt so alone, I started to feel less and less alone and more and more found in who I was in this life post-40.
As I sat in on a recent sermon about relationships—the ones with our family, our children, our parents, our spouses, our friends, and yes, God himself—it gave me such clarity on why we can connect with some people and really struggle with others.
We all crave connection but to reach the deep connection we all crave with others, we have to be willing to be vulnerable. Vulnerability takes courage because it means we have to share our stories, we have to share our true selves—none of that fake social media pretend stuff. We have to be authentic in sharing our emotions, not just the good ones, and how we interpret the events and circumstances that surround our individual lives. To be authentically true to yourself is so hard as it is, so it’s no wonder we struggle to be that with others.
I love social media—it’s a huge part of my personal and professional life. But it’s made us very fearful of sharing our true selves. We fear the rejection or shame that may come if people know who we really are. Yet, our greatest fear is disconnection.
The people we feel closest to are the ones who know our truths—yes, even the not-so-great truths about who we are and what we’ve done. We feel safe with them, they accept us as we are, and we accept them as they are.
Not everyone is going to honor our story and our truths, but we all should have someone we’re willing to be our true selves with. The vulnerability to build that kind of relationship takes courage. In order to connect with people and God Himself too, it’s a give and take relationship. To expect people to be vulnerable and open with us, we have to reciprocate. A relationship with God is much the same—we have to meet Him in the middle. There’s such truth in the saying: God helps those who help themselves. When we are willing to reach our hand out to Him and others, we might be surprised by what we receive in return.
It was during a dark time in my life when I purposefully sought God and connection with some others more than ever before, that I risked vulnerability to be truthful in who I was and what was going on in my life that propelled me toward relationships that have often been a lifeline to me in life on the other side of 40.