“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name. For the Lord is good, and his faithful love endures forever; his faithfulness, through all generations.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Thirty-nine trips around the sun. That’s what today marks for me. That’s nearly 40. Forty used to be a milestone birthday. I’m not really sure if it is anymore. In Psalm 90, Moses talks about people living an average of 70 to 80 years which makes 40 the halfway mark. But, our current lifespan in the U.S. is just shy of 78 which technically means I’m officially past middle age in this country. That’s a bit too depressing a thought for this early in the morning, though (I started writing this well before the sun), so we’ll stick with 40 and move on. There are a few times in a given year that invite a bit more introspection than usual. For me, birthdays tend to be one of those times. So, at the risk of being self-indulgent, allow me to reflect a bit on what I know at 39.
First, 39 can be made to sound a whole lot older than it should. If you have even more trips than that under your belt, don’t mock me just yet. I’ve been reminded of it twice in the last few months. The first time was when I heard someone observe that for kids today, the 90s are for them what the 60s were for my generation. That was a gut punch. Then, just the other day, I saw a post that noted (with the dates adjusted appropriately) the difference between 2021 and 1982 is the same as the difference between 1982 and 1943. That is, someone born before the end of WWII was the same age when I was born that I am now. Ouch.
Still, 39 trips around the sun have tended to be better than not. Oh, I’m not perfect by any stretch. I’m more impatient when things don’t go my way than I should be. I’m a perfectionist and have trouble not projecting my personal expectations onto the people around me (especially my kids). I tend to lean toward being obsessive about new things. That is, I throw myself completely into them at the expense of the things and people around me. I’m far too quick to put my own interests ahead of the interests and needs of the people around me. And I’m a tapper. If you’ve ever lived with a tapper, you know what I mean. If you don’t know what I mean, just be grateful and leave it at that.
That all being said, God’s grace has been abundant, and He has surrounded me with people who are willing to love me (or at least put up with me with a smile on their face) in spite of that laundry list and more. In fact, as I reflect on it a bit, His graciousness and grace toward me over the years have been nothing short of amazing. In every single season of my life, I can point to a time when God was there and gently guiding me along the path I believe He’s still calling me to walk.
I remember a time in college when my carefully planned out schedule suddenly erupted into a mess. After a brief episode of panic, He calmed me down with a double reminder of who He is, and then showed me how He had already worked everything out. A couple of years later, when I had finally heard and answered His call to ministry, I didn’t honestly know how I was going to be able to graduate in time. He worked that out too. The summer when that call came, I was working for Passport Youth Camps. When I applied, one of my references was late on getting his referral in for me. I should have been cut from the list then and there. But somehow I wasn’t. They schedule a special interview after the regular interview period had closed and I got the job. I got the job at the camp location where my beautiful bride would meet me at the door when I arrived. Well, she wasn’t my bride quite yet then, but she was beautiful.
When we were coming out of seminary with Lisa pregnant and our having no idea what the future was going to hold, God cleared our path again. As I flooded the southeast with resumes, I heard back from exactly one church. By process of elimination, we figured that’s where God was leading us. Over the next several years, we learned just how right we were. I could not have imagined a better place to introduce our three boys into the world. But then, in the fullness of time, God moved us again to where we are now. We miss what was, but are as confident as we can be that we are right where we should be.
But it’s not just the course of life that proves God’s faithfulness to me. As I look around at where I am and what I have, I can’t help but to be grateful. I have an incredible wife who loves me more than I deserve. She is gracious and compassionate and wise. She is strong in ways I don’t think she even realizes. She makes everything she touches better than it was before. I have three terrific boys who are each growing into fine young men. I have wonderful parents and in-laws. My sister is fantastic. I have the privilege of pastoring a church filled with wonderful people that is thriving, and in a community that is about to explode with growth.
In my most honest moments, I wonder why I should be experiencing all that I am. In those same moments, I am fully convinced it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the graciousness of the God I strive to serve. The only proper response to any of this is gratitude, service, and an intentional effort to make sure the blessings God has caused to flow in my life keep right on flowing into the lives of the people around me. None of this is for me or because of me. It’s all about Him. Thanks be to God.