If you read the Bible (and I do), 40 is a holy number. A Godly number. 40 years, 40 days – God seems to really be a fan of the number 40. I’m not sure why, but you can bet when I get to Heaven, it won’t be among the first questions that I ask Him. I don’t plan on asking any, actually. All that to say, today, I am reminding myself that 40, is a holy number.
Today is my 40th birthday. A day, if I am being honest, I never thought I would see. From a young age, I believed I would probably pass away young, and not make it to “old age.” I also was sure I wouldn’t have kids (although I wanted them), and there were PLENTY of days I thought I’d never get married, so take that all with the appropriate number of salt grains. Transparently, in my mid twenties and some years in the thirties, my PTSD and OCD symptoms made me doubt it in a more real way as I struggled through some rough points and fought the feelings for years that “today was my last day.” A feeling I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, and one that I know nobler men and women than I face regularly still. Today, however I proved my younger self, my symptoms, and the spiritual enemy I believe I have wrong, and I reached God’s number. Today, I am 40 years old.
Lots of people have big lavish parties, with black balloons and coffins and many practical jokes. I get that, I really do. My body has begun playing weird tricks on me while I wasn’t looking. My back now hurts for a solid 15 minutes upon waking every morning, and seizes up on me when I occasionally, literally, run into walls. My surgically repaired knee has been barking since reg-league basketball last week, and it’s letting me know I might not have as many years as I wish I did left on the court. My head hurts for no reason more often than it doesn’t – and I’m finding it harder to get off the couch to play anything that requires energy with my kids. So yes, I truly understand all the 40 jokes and truths.
Many others have spent the first few months of their 4th decade trying to convince themselves that 40 is the new ________. Trying to say that 40 isn’t really as old as it seems or was, and that it’s all about your state of mind. Act young, be young or something I guess. Here’s the thing though, my logic based mind won’t play that game. 40 isn’t anything other than exactly what it is, 40. Any attempt to prove otherwise would end fruitlessly in a court of law, and or math, at which I am not proficient, but good enough to know. Again, I understand the idea behind this tradition, because people want to stay “young at heart.” You truly are capable of affecting your reality by altering your outlook, and so I commend those that do. I’m just not going to be one of them.
You see I am nothing if not literal, and my “schtick” for the entirety of my life has been balance, and so for those and those reasons alone (like I have any control), I will allow 40 to be exactly what it is, the middle. That’s right, I am now, middle-aged.
Don’t worry, for many of you – it’s coming for you too, and when it gets you, you’ll be lucky to have made it. I know I am. I have had a truly blessed life, and one I am incredibly thankful for. It has not been without its challenges and struggles. I have walked my share of pain, grief and loss, and lived to come out the other side – but it has made me the man I am today. I WOULD change a lot of things, but that’s not how life works, and so I will be thankful for what I have, and learn to accept what I cannot change. I was raised by parents who loved me and loved the Lord. A legacy passed down to them and now to me and my children. I have siblings who I am close to both emotionally and in proximity, and they have been a part of so many wonderful days between 0 and 14,610. I’ve been married (to the same woman) for 15 INCREDIBLE years. She truly is the best thing that has ever happened to me and in so many ways the reason I am still here to see this day. And I have two unique and BEAUTIFUL children, who have made me cry happy tears more times in 10 years than I thought possible in a life-time. I am the very definition of blessed. Hashtag or no.
For those of you looking at middle-aged in the mirror, don’t be sad, you’re still here and impacting the world. I know because so many of you have impacted me. I would not and could not be the husband, father, son, brother or pastor I am today. That sounds cliche, but it is SO not. I have been hugged, hand-held and helped by hundreds of people along the way, and each one made the me I am now, a reality.
So what does this middle-aged man want to say to the world on the day he celebrates 40 years of existence on this earth? What is my grandiose message? What wisdom will I impart?
Simply this. The answer is always Jesus. I have lived a lot of life, and there is much more to be lived. On my best days, there is Jesus, and on my worst, still there He is. Today, in all reality, is simply another day I have been given to serve Him and attempt to be more like Him than I was yesterday. Tomorrow will be another. No matter the issue life gives you, the answer is ALWAYS, ONLY, Jesus.
At some point my sins and misgivings will take this life from me, but they will not and cannot steal my eternity. I plan to live forever, and Jesus says I can. Not because of anything I have done or will do, but simply because He loves me. I have dedicated the last 20+ years of my life to His service. Some good days, many bad – and each one has been a privilege – but they have assured me that the words of an old familiar song are true. “You can take all I have, give me Jesus.”
If you read the Bible (and I do), you’ll know that the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years, fulfilling what should have been an 11 day journey, and ending up in the Promised Land. In many ways my life feels like that. 40 years, wandering, but can say (in some ways), I have arrived. I am right where God wants me. A job I love, a woman I adore, and a family (both biological and spiritual) who stands by me in it all. God’s promises are fulfilled in my life everyday.
And so I can say, 40 is the old 40. Send the balloons, buy me a coffin. Today I will celebrate the life I have, and the one yet to come – both here and everlasting. Age is just a number. Time doesn’t exist. Eternity is forever. Lordy, Lordy, look…I’m 40.