Sunday, November 15, 2009

On Turning 40

I recently celebrated my 40th birthday. My American culture presents this as a significant milestone, the point at which one has reached the pinnacle of life. The fact that we speak of turning 40 as being "over the hill" indicates that we look at the rest of life as a decline. I think most of my friends who are of similar age don't really look at it this way. In fact only those who are younger probably think in these terms. I was encouraged by a couple friends who informed me that in their culture reaching 40 marks the point of maturity. At 40 years old one can finally be considered to have grown up and the best years of life now lie ahead. I rather like this perspective. I certainly don't feel like I've reached the high point of life and all that awaits me from this point onward is a slow decline into old age.

Turning 40 does serve as a marker along the journey of life and offers an opportunity to stop and reflect on the path one has taken. For some, this reflection frightens them, because they realize that they have invested their lives in meaningless things that have no lasting value. Or maybe they measure their lives against the values pushed by our media-driven culture and feel that they have come up with the short end of the stick. In response they might push to obtain those "things" that they think will make life complete and fulfill their happiness, be it a newer, nicer car, a bigger house, or a different spouse.

Although I've spent some time ruminating on my life at this junction, I don't find myself experiencing a mid-life crisis. I don't feel the need to add some new spark to a dull and meaningless life because I have the privilege of living a purpose-driven, meaningful life. In fact, sometimes I wish my life were a little more mundane! I really have nothing to complain about. I have been blessed with a wonderful wife and two delightful (most of the time!) children. I enjoy my work (most of the time!) and am blessed with dear friends, friends from around the world. By the standards of the culture I may have sacrificed a lot. I haven't achieved much, if anything, that our culture considers significant. I don't own my own house. I don't even own a car! I'm not on the path of upward mobility. Sometimes these things tempt me, but then God reminds me of the blessings he's given me. He reminds me of the purpose and calling on my life. He reminds me that I have the opportunity to impact lives for eternity--though I may not see the fruit myself in this life. I haven't sacrificed anything that I haven't received something better in return.

Do I wish I could live life over? Not really. I could change some decisions I regret, but I would inevitably make other regrettable decisions in their place. No, I will thank God instead for the journey I have made and continue to make and for his grace and providence along the path. I will thank him that he has chosen me and filled my life with meaning and purpose for the sake of his name and his glory. And I will pray that my life will continue to be of service to him as long as I draw breath on this earth.