Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his work. – Luke 3:23
I spent the eve of my 30th birthday sitting in the car eating Oreos, and wearing old workout clothes, pigtails and Converse. Had I not included “30th birthday” in that sentence, I could have been describing a 7 year old.
I was freaking out. How could I be 30 already? What had I done with my life? Why didn’t I at least put on makeup? Or take a shower? (Mom-of-a-9-month-old struggles are real.)
I spent the first 3 years of my 20’s hiding from life. At 23, I was out of undergrad, trying to get over the emotional scarring given to me by my ex-fiance, and trying to figure out what I was going to do to support myself financially. My way of coping with all of this was to eat my way through a bag of popcorn and read my way through a stack of paperback romances. Not healthy or appropriate coping by any means, but it was all I had at the time.
Three years later, I managed to lose 60 pounds, finish grad school, and find a job that paid me actual money. For a moment I felt like I had this whole “grown-up thing” figured out.
Then the spring of my 26th year of life, I got PTSD from working for an organization that shall remain nameless. Fortunately or unfortunately, my anxiety and panic attacks were so severe I couldn’t eat, so at least I couldn’t use my old means of coping.
Instead, I ran and watched reruns of ’30 Rock’. And slept with my lights on. And went to counseling.
Fast forward to my 29th year, and I had recovered from PTSD for the most part, I got married and had a baby. I also moved twice and adopted a dog. Then I changed jobs.
Why am I telling you this?
Because despite all of the ups and downs I experienced, I still felt lost and unaccomplished at the age of 29 years and 364 days. What had I really done? I hadn’t bathed lepers or fed orphans. I didn’t write any books or increase my knowledge of theology or philosophy. I certainly didn’t preach to or convert anyone. I mostly did the bare minimum expected of me, and when life got hard I hid beneath books and junk food.
But then I listened to a homily by Fr. Tom at St. Albert the Great, and it dawned on me:
Jesus didn’t start his ministry until he was about 30 years old.
What did he do before that?
He worked. He visited family. He did everyday things in life, like chores, walks and chats with his immediate family. Granted he did all of that while also being perfect and without sin, but still – he didn’t start his public ministry until it was the right time! More specifically, he didn’t start his ministry until it was on God’s time.
Now, I am in no way saying that I think I’m like Jesus. Or that I listen when God tells me things. He could very well have wanted me to do something worthwhile in my 20’s but I was too busy reading garbage books to pay attention.
What I am saying is this:
I have no reason to despair. It took 30 years to get me to the point where I have the stability and resources to begin the work I feel God is calling me to. I made mistakes (many) and some gains (a few). Maybe if I had my stuff together at 21 I could have started my work sooner. Who knows? But God has blessed me despite my ignorance, laziness and doubt. He loves me no matter how many Oreos I eat to escape the fear that only He can abate.
I may not ever be famous or write a book or bathe lepers. God may be calling me to another form of ministry – to serve my family with great love, accepting even the most mundane tasks with humility and joy. It might take me several tries to get my ministry right, but the important thing is that God gives second chances. Or in my case, hundreds of chances.
I better get to work.
Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin. – Blessed Mother Teresa