So its my birthday today. I turn 43. My daughter savita pointed out that 43 is a prime number, so maybe I’m “in my prime”. A valiant attempt, but she wasn’t kidding anyone. Let’s face it, 43 is just a boring birthday.
As I am prone to do, I spent a little time today reflecting on the last year of my life. I have to admit, it wasn’t the strongest year ever. Some ups and some downs, but all in all it seemed like year 43 was the year that my body just started breaking down.
Not only was my hip replaced with a large piece of metal, I also had an MRI on my spine, was diagnosed with low thyroid levels, and even contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (no joke).
Honestly, it caught me by surprise at how this has affected me spiritually and emotionally. I have taken my health and vibrancy for granted, and I wonder if God has been using these (somewhat minor) ailments to help me more deeply connect with some of the foundational realities of the Christian life.
Paul talks about them in II Corinthians…
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
II Corinthians 4:16 – 5:10
As I think about my leisurely jaunt through middle-age I am reminded of three simple truths…
1. Don’t be surprised by your frailty – Since sin entered the world this decay is what every single man and woman should expect. As someone who still feels very young, and spends most of his life with people 18-30, I have kept this reality far from my mind. I even try to fight it….or deny it. But year 43 has brought these realities home in a fresh way.
2. Remember your true hope – Our hope is not found in our own strength. Not spiritually, not emotionally & not physically. We groan. We waste away. Our strength fails. But we serve a God that is bigger than our weaknesses. In fact, His power is made perfect in them. Our hope for today comes in the power of God’s Spirit working IN us. And our hope for tomorrow comes from knowing that “what is mortal will be swallowed up by life….”
3. Finish Strong (no matter your age, your aim is STILL to please Him) – A number of years ago I went to a church planters assessment and met a older couple (in their 60s) from Michigan. They shared with the assessors their dream of starting a church in a rural community that had a heart to serve and minister to the young unwed mothers in the area whose lives were being ravaged by addiction and poverty. They spoke for 15 minutes with power and conviction, and then the assessors asked questions. One man stood up and said, “that vision is all fine and good, but don’t you think you guys are too old to be starting something like this?”. There was a moment of silence. The husband started to speak, but his wife interrupted him. She was fired up. “We may be old, but God has given us a vision and we’re going to pursue it. Remember son, it’s not how you start…but how you finish!”
I think about that story all the time. Especially on my birthdays.
Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. We can run hard to the finish line. Even with metal parts.
I have a really good feeling about year 44.