I remember birthdays as a kid, and how it always felt so good to add one year to the scorecard that was my age. The bigger the number got, the closer I thought I’d be to the day when someone important told me that I was OK. I was just waiting for someone to say, “You are grown up now, and you are going to make it on your own––you’ve got what it takes.”
I continued that pattern through college and graduate school. I was still trying to figure out if there was any built-in purpose to my life, but I acted like I had it all together, like I had all the answers. While I waited for some final word on my worth, I treated relationships with the carelessness of a teenager, and did very little growing up in my twenties.
When my 30th birthday came, I was still just like that little kid, marking a number on his scorecard. Secretly, I marked this one down darker than the others. I just knew that 30 would be the one. This was the year that people would treat me like a grown up and finally start telling me those magic words: “Congratulations on turning 30. You’ve finally got what it takes now.”
It never happened. I was older, but in many ways still foolish, immature, and unable to see it. My birthday had absolutely nothing to do with my true maturity.
At some point I had to acknowledge to myself and to God that I was waiting on other people to provide only what He could. My shallow way of measuring my worth had left me confused and insecure, so I began to face how weak my crutch was.
I’ve quit using a scorecard to count birthdays and I have become increasingly convinced that God doesn’t give a damn how old we are. His desire for us is to “go on to maturity,” as the book of Hebrews puts it. The Message version is especially colorful:
Milk is for beginners, inexperienced in God’s ways; solid food is for the mature, who have some practice in telling right from wrong.
So come on, let’s leave the preschool fingerpainting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ. The basic foundational truths are in place: turning your back on “salvation by self-help” and turning in trust toward God;
Since my number of calendar years doesn’t reflect my spiritual maturity, I’ve decided that my age is a meaningless abstraction for me, having no bearing on my present course. I still have a lot of growing up to do, including more scorecards that need to be burned.
(By the way, I turn 37 years old today, but who’s counting?)