“Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.” I was 18 when Bob Seger wrote his epic denial ballad, ‘Against the Wind.’ Facing 50 forces a person to reflect. I am wiser. Well, I have more gray hair and that implies maturity. I am more humble, which could be attributed to growing in grace, or just coming to the harsh realization that I am not that great. I am quicker to forgive and ask for forgiveness, which may have more to do with losing my memory than spiritual sanctification, but I claim it as a victory against youthful selfishness.

“I’m older now but still running against the wind.” With 50 years of reflection on my side, I know that sometimes life is hard and denial definitely serves a purpose, but in the end I disagree with Mr. Seger. Wishing we didn’t know now what we didn’t know then would discredit our lives and the fullness of the journey. Turning 50 is part of my personal journey, and all of the experiences, knowledge, pain, and trials that have come with it have shown me that running against the wind is not the answer to finding freedom.

Since I met God at age 25, I have been fascinated with the Jewish people. Celebrating a fiftieth year is significant in their culture, although I couldn’t find any rock ballads to confirm it. The Jubilee of the Bible is a celebration every 50 years to acknowledge what God has done, ask for forgiveness, and start over. During the Jubilee, prisoners were freed, debts forgiven, and God’s mercies proclaimed. It encapsulates the idea of starting over as a free and sanctified person. The Liberty Bell, our iconic symbol of independence, has the Jubilee call inscribed on its surface “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and PROCLAIM LIBERTY THROUGHOUT THE LAND UNTO ALL THE INHABITANTS THEREOF: it shall be a jubilee unto you…”

Being older now is a gift; refusing to run against the wind is a choice.

In celebration of freedom, jubilee, and my fiftieth birthday, is my top ten list of things I am glad I know now that I didn’t know then:

1. True friends are rare. Embrace true friendships as a gift. Some may last even fifty years . . . or more

2. Every person has value. I grew up believing I had no value. That was a lie. Every person is valuable and worth celebrating. Invest in someone else and see how much richer your own life is.

3. First impressions matter. Even though we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, people do anyway. I never knew the way you present yourself affects how people treat you and in turn will determine how life affects you.

4. Freedom is a choice. Sometimes we are held captive by pain, abuse, shame, and sorrow. We can choose to become bitter or let go and be free.

5. Poor choices have consequences. I made poor choices as a teen never thinking they would follow me. My chronic illness now has a direct correlation to the damage I incurred as a youth. If I could reverse the consequences, life would be very different.

6. Surround yourself with what you want. I never knew the people, places, and things I placed in my life shaped who I was. If you want to be a person of excellence, change, creativity, or faith surround yourself with those things.

7. Aging is inevitable. Unless God intervenes or something tragic happens, we will all age. I never dreamed I would one day look in the mirror and see my grandmother. Joyfully embrace the journey and celebrate the richness of growing older.

8. It’s important to know yourself. I spent the first half of my life trying to be someone else. I believed I was worthless and was so busy looking for who I thought I should be that I missed the joy of who I was designed to be. Look for clues to what makes you happy, sad, passionate, and hopeful and then celebrate them.

9. What we do affects others. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own thinking, we forget that other people are affected by our actions. Good choices may have a positive effect; questionable choices may have destructive results. Be mindful of how your life affects others.

10. Everyone worships and believes in something. We are faith-filled beings created to worship. What or whom you choose to worship will make all the difference in your journey.

What is your jubilee? Celebrate, rejoice, begin again, and live free.