On Turning 40
I recently had a birthday and hit the big 4-0, so I want to reflect on this momentous milestone. I don’t connect well to the tired “over the hill” jokes that come along with this particular age, mostly because I don’t feel old. I don’t feel like I am over the hill, and I don’t regret my place on the timeline. Actually, it’s the opposite in a lot of ways because I like getting older. Plus, my life is abundant, by any measure. I have an amazing wife and son who both make every day a blessing, I don’t have any serious financial problems, and I am driven to try new things.
So forty is not a scary thing to me (I’ve had a number of people tell me that forty is the new thirty, so perhaps fifty will carry more of the “getting old” stigma).
Maybe a good way to approach this is to think of some of the most important things I’ve learned in the first forty years, even if I don’t always live them out.
1. My wife and son are gifts from God. If any venture causes me to begin a pattern of gradually ignoring them, then I am moving farther away from my most important calling.
2. I want to spend more energy to love my family well, instead of critiquing things they do or don’t do. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it doesn’t play out that way naturally. When we are hurt or disappointed by people we love, our tendency is to relive what has been done to us, creating a vortex of emotion that only taxes our own well being.
3. My voice may not be the best and most important interpretation of an idea or situation. This revelation is a big one, and almost never happens before someone is at least in their twenties. Let’s say it together because it is good practice: “I could be wrong on this.”
4. You can’t set a career path at 18 years old and think that you’ll be on it the rest of your life. I’m not much of an extrovert, so my first career choice of youth ministry was probably not carefully thought through. I envisioned myself teaching rooms full of teenagers, eager to hear what I had to say, and about the time they got bored, I would wow them with my abilities. Let’s say it together: “I was definitely wrong on this.” I know that there are people who are happy in doing one thing all their lives, but that is probably the exception. I take delight in the freedom to continually search for and discover work experiences that reach closer to my personal center.
5. Finding and living in community is one of the hardest things to do, but it’s worth the continual effort. I’m going to resist the temptation to say that the Church is the most frustrating organization on the planet. Any organization that has human people in it is a minefield of potential conflict and misunderstanding. That’s why those who avoid being well-connected in a community are fooling themselves to think that they’ll find one that doesn’t require personal risk. However, I’ve learned more than I can describe from the concentric community circles that I’m involved with. I grow and learn because I’m a part of those communities. Yes, I screw up and say the wrong thing more often than I’d like. Yes, I get frustrated with people doing things “I would never do.” But I am strengthened in the midst of all the unkept, awkward, messy interactions I have with the people I live life with.
As with the many other things I’m learning, I struggle to see the lessons above realized on a consistent basis. Sometimes that’s incredibly frustrating, especially since I’ve had forty years to get this figured out.
Perhaps “figuring it out” isn’t the point at all.