Today I turn 40. I’m not one to make much of birthdays, but I’ve been made to believe by friends and family that this round number is of particular significance (despite the fact that reaching it is not a statistically impressive achievement). At the very least, milestone birthdays are timely opportunities to pause and reflect. Here are 10 reflections upon turning 40.
1. In all likelihood, my life is half over. I suppose this could be ominous or anxiety-inducing. But it mostly makes me thankful for the life God has given me up until now and even greater anticipation for the life still in front of me. I feel the kindness of God much more than the pressure or fear of aging. I guess you could say I am more of a life half full kind of person than a life half empty type.
2. I have eulogized athleticism. I am saying a long goodbye to my metabolism. But I never could have anticipated being where I am in my faith, my marriage, parenting, or ministry. Life is better than it ever has been in all the areas that matter most. At various points over the decades I could not have even anticipated having faith, being married, or serving in pastoral ministry. So I am profoundly grateful.
3. The old trope is that 40 is “over the hill.” Ok, I’ll accept that so long as it means that I am only gaining momentum. So many people I admire and respect have been or are being more fruitful and more joyful in the second half of their lives. I desire to be one of them. The future is brighter than I ever thought possible.
4. Gray hair is nothing to hide. I fully embrace growing into my “crown of glory.” (I may need to revisit my thoughts on aging and hair if/when I begin to lose mine.)
5. More than ever in my life I am aware of how little I know, how little my reach is, and how little power I actually have. Which means I find it much easier to focus on the things I must do instead of those things I once dreamed about doing–those things God has given me to do.
6. I’ve learned that there are two ways to learn wisdom: by listening to the wise or through pain. As you might imagine, I learned this the hard way. But I anticipate the back half of life being significantly better because of it.
7. Somehow, with age has come a depth of feeling I never anticipated. I cry more than any point in life since infancy—not out of sadness but out of substance. So many things mean much more to me than they ever have.
8. It’s weird being at an age where people I respect look up to me. I am older than my senior pastor. I am older than half the elders at our church. I am well over the median age in our church. I don’t feel old enough to be respected or respectable, and maybe I never will. But here I am, nearer to “father figure” than up and comer.
9. I’ve been an aspiring curmudgeon for a long time with the dream of being a grumpy old man. But I’ve come to realize there’s a big difference between a grumpy old guy and an angry old guy. I want to be the former (and probably won’t be able to help it) but I definitely don’t want to become the latter. So I think a lot these days about what trajectory will aim me toward being an old man with a foundation of faith and sense of humor underneath a crusty exterior.
10. Among my most common prayers for myself these days is the prayer “fill me.” Fill me with joy, with energy, with compassion, with wisdom, with devotion to Jesus, with affection for Jesus. I think this is because I have learned much about my own limitations and general emptiness apart from God’s grace.