Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Turned 40 today- Aging is a strange thing

Since I have been at Redeemer I have crossed a few significant age thresholds- first age 25 (the youth called me a “geezer” at that point), then 30 (that was a hard one), and now, most recently I turned 40. Aging is a strange thing.

When you are very young growing up is all you want to do. You want to be old enough to call your own shots and get your own stuff. Then, when you get older, the previously unknown weight of the new responsibilities seem to squelch the novel joy of driving a car, staying out later, and having a job. The job at McDonald’s or cutting lawns tends to get old (especially when most of the money earned pays for gas and insurance) and you realize the need for more education or training. You enter a period of relative poverty while taking lots of classes and hoping there will be a job out there for you when you finally finish school. Age 20 into your mid 20‘s feel like you’re scurrying around trying to finish school, establish a job or gain a clear direction on what you should do for the rest of your life. Your 20’s are prime years, but you never really have a chance to soak in how prime they really are- you’re simply not wise and sensitive enough. One of the biggest rip-offs in life is not realizing how awesome your twenties are when you’re in them. You get in to your 30’s (usually about 30 pounds heavier) when you realize the twenties were the 10 best years of your life from a health and energy stand point. Children are coming as you push 30 and it strikes you how out of shape you’ve become. You frantically find a way to get back in to some kind of shape (by lowering the "in shape" bar considerably) as you push ahead in to your 30's. You swear you eat half as much as you used to (which probably isn’t really true) but you gain weight ten times easier. By your mid 30‘s life is running at a torrid pace- marriage, long hours at work, young kids, all sorts of challenges assail, time rips by.

As you head toward 40 it dawns on you that your prime years physically are gone. There is a sense of prime time evaporating as the mysterious threshold of 40 approaches. Maybe you, like me in my mid 30'a, talked yourself in to playing a sport you once enjoyed and were fairly good at. You still feel decent in your mid 30's, but a sense of Russian roulette with a nasty injury lingers in the back of your mind. Face it, by your late 30's you are on borrowed time athletically. The lure to capture bygone glory is strong. You are weak in resisting the lure, and the crash is hard, but the realization clear- life will be different from 40 onward. Youth and vigor will no longer suffice, you must now make it on age and treachery. You can’t help wishing you knew at 20 the things you now know at age 40. A fruitless wish indeed.

So, here I am at age 40. Some of you are thinking that’s really old and a mark of irrelevance or uncoolness. Others think I’m whining about being 40, which is still so young. For us who are just turning 40, we don’t care what either of you groups think of us, we just know our lives are probably half over or more and hair is growing on our back and in our ears.

I’m not sure if what I have just described resonates with any of you, it’s just my take. I will say this about turning 40- I’m bummed about the things I really can’t do like I used to, but very excited about what lies ahead. I usually define “prime years” in terms of physical health, but I know that’s not really the right gauge. I think prime years should have more to do with the ability to live out and apply accumulated knowledge. I hope I can live more wisely now.

In a nutshell, I hope the rest of my years are colored with more wisdom than the first 40 years. The years I have just lived have prepared me for whatever lies ahead. I needed these 40 years to get ready. The more you prepare for something, the better it is when the time comes. I view 40 as a new beginning of some kind. Sure, my life today at age 40 isn’t totally detached or different from yesterday, last month, last year, or even the last couple of years, but I am trying to maintain a mindset that says new beginning.

What is the greatest lesson I have learned that I hope makes the biggest difference going forward?

I think this is an important question for anyone and everyone, but especially those of us crossing this particular threshold.

Over these last 40 years I have become more convinced than ever of the total relevance and necessity of Christ ruling every possible aspect of my life. Jesus isn’t something that fits a certain compartment of my life- He’s lord of all of it. I have learned my life’s balance and peace is directly related to the place Christ occupies. When He’s the center, there is peace (I didn’t say happiness necessarily..nor am I saying there were no trials). When Tony is at the center and I am pursuing self- everything reeks. The words of Paul echo in my mind-

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)

Christ is my life. He’s not just part of my life, He is my life. There’s nothing simple about life- it’s littered with challenges, hardships, and difficult situations. My sin consistently rears its head and messes things up. Navigating all these things depends on grasping the reality of Paul’s statement here. Christ is my life.

The way I see this lived out is also illustrated by Paul in his general life focus. He focused on three things-

1. The glory of Christ (through my maturing process in Him by the work of the Holy Spirit).

2. The advance of the Gospel (the message of being made right with God through Christ).

3. The progress of the faith of believers (to see others recognize that Christ is their life).

At age 40 I’m even more focused on pursuing these things than ever. Colossians 1:28-29 are my life verses (I'll let you look those up). Maybe my downgraded physical condition will actually serve to make me even more cognizant of my need to depend on Christ- which will serve to grow me spiritually. Such a demeanor should compel me to be more faithful in sharing the message of the gospel. I pray such a stature will allow me to be used by God to build up other believers in their faith in Christ.

Yes, aging is a strange thing, but with Christ as your life, it’s also somewhat exciting.


Cathy Prell said...

Well said, Tony. Happy birthday, and welcome to the 40's club!!

Your old friend,
Cathy P

Malcolm said...

One of the reflections I have regarding your generation, which is basically the same as my 38 year old son is the pressure that has been lifted off the 20 year old male regarding the draft. That was something EVERY male in my generation (Viet Nam era) had to face. While I am proud to have served my country, the pressure to serve was enormous as to whether you went into the national guard or reserves and committed to 6 years, enlisted, or went through ROTC. That hung over all of our heads and was an absolute fact that you would have to give up 2 to 6 years of your life to serve. I know you appreciate this because I have heard you reflect on your Dad's service. As we get further and further away from the draft I think that young men will appreciate it less and less. Any way, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DUDE. I am happy to have shared 11 years with you.

Woody Woodward said...

As I read your “questioning” birthday thoughts on life turning 40, I couldn’t help reflect on my own bumpy journey. I am so thankful our loving Lord judges the thoughts and the intentions of our hearts. So many years I thought I was pleasing the Lord. So many years I wasted, chasing false and fleshy spiritual pipe dreams, trying to imitate other Christians, trying to be what I am not. Selfishly coveting other believers gifts and abilities, that always led to no-where’sville. So many missed opportunities to be the father I see in you. Yes, I thought I was serving the Lord, but so much selfishness kept me from understanding what John 10:10 really meant. I truly believe when we joined Redeemer, it was only then the Lord said “Finally, you are on MY path, not yours. Now as you surrender your everything unto ME, I can use you.” Thanks pastor for being so approachable, for being so real, thanks for being such an incredible role model!

Andrew said...

Happy birthday Tony! I am about 10months ahead of you on the age curve. The water is fine, cmon in and enjoy.

In addition to your thoughts, consider these things that are true of 40 year old me, but not 20 year old me:
1. I have a strong and deep marriage, weathered by life's storms and (by grace) strengthened by it.
2. Splurging on valet parking once in a while wont bust the budget any more.
3. I know better, usually. And I have learned from mistakes.
4. I have wonderful kids, and our relationship only gets richer every day.
5. I have a long perspective on things, which gives me patience.
6. Friends, with decades-long friendships, and knowing they will always be there.
7. I am more useful to Kingdom work now, with a few graying hairs than back then.

Lots to be thankful for as I begin my fifth (!) decade!

Grace and peace to you on your birthday,
Andrew (from FC Dallas land)