Reflections at 35

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“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Today I turn 35 years old. Moses says that if I’m strong, I may reach 80. But if I’m average, and if God wills, I’m halfway home (Psalm 90:10).

The day will be fairly normal. I’ll finish up class preparations in the morning, teach a couple 3-hour blocks in the afternoon, and hang out with family for the evening.

I find myself in a season where the days are long on work and short on reflection. I wish it were different, but God’s ways are not my ways, and without the work, perhaps there would be far less to reflect on. But there are key moments in life where reflection is virtually forced upon us and we’re compelled to pause and ponder. I don’t have much time at the moment, and I’m tired, but if I don’t pause now, the moment will pass. And I don’t want life to be a long string of moments that passed too quickly.

As I grow older, my prayer is that I not just age but grow (R. C. Butterfield). I don’t want to miss the process, because while I used to see only the glory in the sprint, I now see more and more beauty in slow and consistent growth. Along the way, I don’t feel strongly about needing more money or degrees or recognition, perhaps because fame looks better and better the younger you are but faithfulness looks better and better the older you get.

I’m not overjoyed today, and I’m not sad. I’m just sobered, and thoughtful, and at peace. I know now, more than I’ve ever known before, that life simply continues on, until one day I slip into eternity. I used to see death as a threat to all that I wanted to accomplish, but as I grow older, I increasingly see how leaving this life will be an upgrade. Life doesn’t keep its promises like God keeps his.

In it all, I think I’m growing less and less concerned about leaving a legacy and more and more concerned about planting seeds. I’m less and less concerned about what everyone thinks about me and more and more concerned that my kids know I loved them. I’m less and less interested in the drama and the game and the stage and more and more interested in the meal shared and the time spent and the slow shaping process that restores the image of God in each of his children. Maybe I’ve just seen how the best way to miss the simple joys in life is to make life really complex, and the worst way to do ministry is to build the system and the schedule and the program so perfectly that it fits no one.

There’s more to say, but I keep learning that it can’t all be said. Plus, the day itself always presents its own opportunities for gratitude and reflection, as each day does when I have eyes to see. For now, I simply want to record some scattered thoughts that pass through my mind when I pause long enough to ponder. Thank you, Father, for the life you’ve given. Help me to serve the ones you’ve put me here to serve. And may this life please you when you finally take it back to yourself.

Reflections at 35

  1. I’m not much more of a man than my wife and children experience me to be.
  2. Love is the hardest simple thing you’ll ever do.
  3. As time passes, what bothers me more is not the big chunks I’ve wasted but the small moments I’ve missed.
  4. It was worth being there — at the wedding, at the funeral, at the hospital.
  5. It’s the people you love you’ll hurt the most.
  6. A clean conscience is better than a comfortable life.
  7. The most important time to show up is when you don’t feel like it.
  8. Other people have had to be more patient with me than I’ve had to be with them.
  9. Speak the truth and live at peace.
  10. Do what you’ll wish you had done.
  11. God is your Father, and that’s not a metaphor.
  12. God’s ways are not my ways, but that’s slowly changing — it’s called sanctification.
  13. I’ve learned to expect that God doesn’t do what I expect.
  14. Don’t spend too much time on causality when you have a sovereign God orchestrating the universe for your good.
  15. The richest relationships will not be the ones you planned.
  16. Love only people who are like you and your life will be comfortable and boring. Love everyone God brings your way and your life will be hard and exciting.
  17. Reconciliation is worth the effort, even when it doesn’t work.
  18. Time is not always a healer, but Jesus never forsakes.
  19. Find peace in the patience of God.
  20. Influence happens in those moments when nothing was planned but everything is happening.
  21. Sit with sufferers and don’t worry about what to say.
  22. Don’t live in the future with an eye to the present. Live in the present with an eye to the future.
  23. Imitate your heroes, but be careful, or they’ll make you miserable.
  24. When your wife tells you what’s hard for her in your marriage, listen the first time.
  25. Do the silly things your kids want to do. It’s not about what you’re doing. It’s about who you’re doing it with.
  26. The days are long but the years are short.
  27. Getting older is only sad if your glory days were in the past.
  28. There’s something beautiful about bearing up under suffering, but there would be no beauty if there were no suffering.
  29. If the saints never suffered we would have few psalms.
  30. Live in the present, but take the long view.
  31. God doesn’t tell us his plans for us, because he knows that faith will give us more peace than control.
  32. Worry about what matters.
  33. Jesus doesn’t just have the kindness to forgive sins. He has the authority to forgive sins.
  34. People are learning more from what you do and how you act than what you say.
  35. You can trust God anytime, anywhere, with anything.

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