Today is my 40th birthday. As this day has been approaching, I have taken some time to reflect on what it means in my life. In many ways, it is just a number, but I also believe that it is important to celebrate milestones. Cultures that don’t spend time in reflection and celebration are cultures that are either dead or dying. The fact that we spend so much time thinking that to have is to ‘be’, and that to fill our lives with ‘stuff’ is what it is all about, shows that our culture is not in a good place at all.
A previous pastor at the church I go to said something once that I have never forgotten. He was relaying the story of a man he met once who had just turned 65. This man lamented about how fast his life had gone, to the point that he woke up one morning and all of a sudden he was 65 and realised that it had just gone like the click of a finger.
I am a big fan of John Mellencamp. On his classic Scarecrow album, there is a song called Minutes to Memories. Some of the lyrics of that song say ‘Days turn to minutes and minutes to memories. Life sweeps away the dreams that we have planned’. One thing I have learned over the last 40 years is that life is, in a large way, about how you deal with what you lose, and about how you deal with life when things don’t go your way. It’s about growth and about being grateful for what you have.
Life is not so much about getting there as about the journey. It’s also about swallowing your pride and realising that you can’t get by on your own. There is no such thing as a self-made man. We all need each other and we all need something higher than us. For me that something is the God of the Bible. If you’re interested, you can read more about my thoughts about that in the About page.
As I go on in life, I think about the majority of the world who don’t get to 40. And it strikes me how wrong that is. I can’t imagine myself dying at this age. I’ve got things I want to do over the next 10, 20 and 40 years. But I also know that my plans are not my own, and so I give them to God to do with as He wills. U2 have a song which says ‘where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die’. I’ve been lucky enough to be one of the minority who has grown up not having to think about where my next meal will come from. I often don’t realise how good I’ve got it.
I’ve also been lucky enough to run into someone like my wife, Nell. She teaches me grace. When I’m selfish, and, when by that selfishness I hurt her, she just continues to love me.
There have been many people who have influenced me in my life to date. Three of them are Martin Luther King, Bono, and my pastor John Smith. All of these people have/had a passion for God which I want. They have lived for God and walked their talk. And they have done it in a way that makes the gospel relevant to everyday living. All they want is to serve God and walk in the way of Jesus.
So today I am glad and I am grateful. You have these moments and you reflect, and then you move on. I’m looking forward to the next 40 years.