This is a guest post by Uwe Bower, a dear friend of mine and integral member of the STSA church family. Uwe is also a recent fellow inductee into the 40-year-old club and today he shares his thoughts about "getting older." Couldn't have said it better myself! If you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guideline for more info.
"You know you're getting old when the candles cost more than the cake."
Recently, I turned 40. Many people asked me how it feels like. Some joke if I can still walk a straight line without help. Most seem to be thinking there is a problem about getting older. Why?
Usually, people get freaked out when they pass a milestone. Already 30! Oh no, life is over at 40! 50 - are you kidding me? Most of us want to be younger than we are. Look younger, be more active, independent, free. The result can be quite funny. 30-year-olds dress like college kids. 40-year-olds are as uncommitted as twenty-somethings. 50-year-olds undergo plastic surgery to make sure nobody discovers their real age.
Conversely, some people seem much older than they are. Either people try to jump ahead into a stage of life they can't wait happening. If only I was married! If only I had children! If only I got that promotion! If only I was already retired! Sometimes, they rush ahead in life without the right foundation. Or people look much older than they are because they have given up on themselves. They let themselves go, no longer caring about how they dress or whether they stay in shape. They get settled and saturated by life as if it was already over.
The truth is, it's not funny, it's sad. People trying to be a different age, or a different stage in life, are missing out on life. By chasing after what is gone, or what is not yet, they forget to live their present life to the full.
What counts is being the age you are. Take life as a journey, a road to maturity. With every year we age, every step we take, every lap we finish, we grow – and life gets richer, fuller, better, more meaningful. If we refuse to move on, or try to jump the line, we miss the experience of the present stage. Every season in life comes with a special calling, unique opportunities that are out of reach if you are younger or older. Those opportunities shouldn't be wasted.
If you are a single in your twenties, don’t spend your time complaining how hard it is to find a decent mate – go out and do ministry in a way only singles can.
If you have just started your own family, don’t regret your loss of freedom but make friends and evangelize among other parents to whom only you have access.
If you are in your 50s and the kids have left the house, don’t get lost in the void but start mentoring younger folks with the experience only you have.
If we keep comparing ourselves with somebody else, or a younger or older version of ourselves, we are not only wasting our time but also delaying progress.
On my 40th birthday, I came across the parable of the tiny little mustard seed which is planted and slowly grows into a mighty tree, with birds perching in its branches (Luke 13:19). I like the idea of life starting as a small seed - we have just had our third baby, and tiny she is! - and then growing and growing - I look amazedly at my boys how they have grown! – until it turns into a mature, magnificent tree which withstands the storms of life and provides shelter to others.
My life started little. I come from a broken family, had many insecurities. But God planted the seed, and as I kept on seeking him, he grew me into a tree with stability and fruit, by his grace.
What is the secret of healthy growth? It is underground, in the roots.
The mighty tree is firmly planted by streams of water and yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither (Psalm 1). To be firmly planted, the roots of a healthy tree run out as far as three times the crown. Rooted in the word of God. Connected to his living water. Over the years, turning into an oak of righteousness (Isaiah 61:3). A leader of the family. A pillar of the church. A coworker to rely on. Throughout all seasons of life, summer and winter included.
Are you unhappy with your age or your stage in life? Look back and see what you can be thankful for, how you have already grown, even through hard times. Are you regretful about missed opportunities? Then change course, and be who you are, do what you are called to do, in your present stage of life, before it's too late. You don't want to end up with “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”, as impressively observed by the palliative nurse Bronnie Ware – top regret: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself.”
Christians are pilgrims on the road to heaven. Throughout the journey, we want to be faithful stewards, living up to our calling in every season, seeking God's Kingdom first in every circumstance - and a rich, fulfilled and meaningful life will be ours. Whatever your age.
"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years." Abraham Lincoln