Today, I turn 40 and I’m fired up about it. And you can’t fake being fired up. My freshman year of college I was on a bad football team. We lost a lot and by the end of the season only two things were increasing; the yelling of our coaches and the level of our discouragement. I remember distinctly during warm ups of one our late season games, the head coach looked me in the eye and asked, “Horton, are you fired up?!” I did my best to respond back with a loud “Yes!” However, it was no avail.
Even the coach could see I was struggling and he proceeded to do what he always did, yell more. The yelling did not help my enthusiasm, because, like I said, you can’t fake being fired up. Fortunately, today I’m not faking. I really am fired up to be 40. No, this is not an attempt to fight age with youthful passion or cover my years up with motivational jargon. It has now been 40 years since my birth and I could not be more excited.
Embracing, dare we say even enjoying, your age almost seems odd now. We run from age like the black plague. Just in the men’s section on any local magazine rack, one finds endless articles and advertising about looking younger, leaner, and stronger. Products promise more energy, passion, and even sex appeal. You can cover that gray, loose the flab, and trim those unwanted hairs…or grow some back. Our more beautiful counterparts have it even worse. To appear young and beautiful is the gold standard in women’s beauty.
As I pondered my 40th birthday, I became increasingly convicted that it was never supposed to be this way, especially for people who follow Christ. Without a relationship with God I can easily understand why age is a curse that haunts people, inching them closer and closer to the uncertainty of death. But if you know God, as I do, our acceptance and celebration of age should be a part of enjoying God’s sovereign plan for our lives. I believe this is what the writer of Proverbs had in mind when he wrote, “A gray head is a crown of glory; It is found in the way of righteousness” (Proverbs 16:3). I tend to think in lists and I thought this one might encourage you to embrace your age. Today I turn 40 and here are the top ten reasons I am fired up about it.
- I am saved.
Thirty-two years ago Christ found me and redeemed me in a country church in rural Alabama. That moment changed everything for me. My identity, purpose, calling, and hope are all wrapped up in knowing Christ personally. I know so much more now than I did as an eight-year-old boy, but I’ve not found anything better than Him. Age is hardly reason for discouragement compared to knowing the Lord and living in and under His care.
- I am loved.
It is a sad thing to sit with someone who feels alone, abandoned, or unwanted. We do not do well by ourselves. God designed us to find our identity and purpose in relationship with Him AND relationships with others. For 40 years, one constant has remained in my life.
I have been loved. My parents, grandparents, immediate family, extended family, friends, coaches, teachers, and mentors have loved me. These people made my first 40 years what it has been. So, in a sense, enjoying my age is a way of honoring them.
- I am in love.
The first day of my junior year of high school a quiet yet beautiful young woman walked into geometry class and changed everything for me. At 17, I knew she was the one and she is the only woman I have ever loved. Finding a spouse to spend one’s life with does not always come that easy, but the world’s approach to love, romance, passion, and intimacy is painfully lacking. Satisfaction is supposed to be found in anything new, exciting, and erotic.
But, sadly, it never delivers. Real, sustainable romance is not found in lusting over a thousand women one time (whether through promiscuity, pornography, objectifying, or just plain old gawking). Eros for a lifetime is found in loving one woman a thousand different ways. Knowing her so deeply that you cannot tell where you end and she begins. Sharing life so intensely that you feel like only half of yourself when she’s not around. I’ve been in love with the same woman for 23 years and it is just as exciting and fulfilling as it was the first time she held my hand and let me kiss her. I will tell my sons what Solomon told his, “Rejoice in the wife of your youth” (Proverbs 5:18). She has not aged me but she makes me want to grow old…with her.
- I am having the time of my life being a dad.
I became a father for the first time a month after my 26th birthday, and like most young men, I am eternally grateful for my wife’s maternal instincts because I had no clue what I was doing. I remember my father-in-law sitting and holding our newborn son for hours, while I was more concerned with whether the little screamer would let us get a little sleep during the night. My father in law knew what I did not know then but am keenly aware of now. Those precious moments in life are like a vapor. At 40, I have five children and another due next year. They run the gamut of developmental stages and personalities, but all of them are immovable parts of my life now. Why would I ever want to stop the hands of time or go back to yesteryear when the here and now is full of these incredible people growing and maturing right before my eyes? Being a dad makes tomorrow matter more than yesterday.
- People matter more now.
When you hit adulthood, measuring up matters, so usually that means earning some form of qualifications or credentials through education. Getting a degree, a title, or a status fills our minds and our time. Then, once you determine what you will do as an adult, you want to be good at it, so accomplishments matter. When doing your job well brings financial income, then getting stuff matters. Once you get stuff (homes, cars, boats, vacation rentals, 401K’s, big toys, etc…) then you spend time paying for your stuff and taking care of it, in addition to your job and your family. This invariably means that time (or the lack of time) begins to matter. Don’t get me wrong, degrees, careers, accomplishments, stuff, and time have their place. At 40, however, I am finding that people matter to me more and more.
I have enjoyed the degrees, positions, accomplishments, recognitions, and even the stuff, but it is the people that move the needle in my heart. The Lord’s Great Commandment to love God and love people hits deeper now. I am glad people matter more to me now and it makes me appreciate my age.
- I am a wiser, more faithful pastor.
I have no desire to comment on my own performance as a pastor. You would have to ask my congregation and my staff about that. But I can say with great assurance that I am a wiser, more faithful pastor now than I was when my church called me 14 years ago. It is not that I wasn’t trying then or that God did not use me. Frankly, there is just no way to learn to shepherd people spiritually other than, well, shepherding people spiritually. It was a calling and a vocation when I began. Now my church is my family. We have laughed, wept, prayed, worshipped, learned, and occasionally even struggled together. I used to have a bit of a smart comeback when someone would comment on how young of a pastor I was. I’d say, “I’m sorry I’m so young, I was born that way.” Joking aside, pastors don’t come out 40 years old. Like everyone else, they start young and need the years of plowing to reach their full potential. As my church says goodbye to a senior pastor in his thirties, I’m excited to leverage what I have learned to help my people accomplish God’s mission more faithfully.
- I feel good.
About two years ago a felt lousy. After ending a very difficult year of ministry, I stepped on a scale and was not happy. Two hundred and thirty-five pounds worked when I was a weightlifting fullback in college, but it was not working for a pastor in his late 30’s. I knew I had to do something. I received some good counsel and, with the support and help of my wife, I drastically changed the way I ate. I lost 45 pounds and two years later I have remained committed to a more disciplined way of eating. Along the way, I discovered just how unhealthy my relationship with food had become. The spiritual and emotional exercise of just saying no to many foods has been an unexpected blessing. I’m not near what I was when I was 20, but turning 40 with the strength and ability to enjoy an active life is a blessing and should not be unappreciated.
- I still have passions.
I am writing this blog at a deer camp in rural Illinois because I love to bow hunt trophy whitetail deer and there is no better place to be during November than right where I sit. A few nights ago, I arrowed a beautiful buck and I was as excited as I was 26 years ago when I harvested my first deer. Turkeys and ducks are found in my daydreams and anytime I can get my boots muddy it has been a good day for me.
When it warms up, I will get out my golf clubs and hunt pars (I’ve lost all hope of finding birdies). I love barbecue and think about football way too much. Finding new coffee shops to study in and tinkering in my barn refill my tank as well. Why does this stuff matter? Because I think it is important to have passions and at 40 I still have fun doing stuff. As a leader, I like to study leaders, and the ones that finish strong strike a balance between the personal energy they pour into influencing others and the personal time they take to be refilled emotionally and spiritually.
During their first semester, every seminary student hears the speech about how many ministers are not making it to the end. Burnout, discouragement, and moral failure seem to be one of Satan’s most effective assaults on men leading the church. The reality of this has become personally true for me as I’ve witnessed some of my own friends leave the ministry. A long time ago I decided I was not going to be the husband, dad, or pastor so singularly focused that he became dry, lifeless, boring, and burned out. Jesus said to His followers, “I have come that you may have life and that you may have it abundantly” (John 10:10). I do not believe Jesus had our personal passions in mind when he said this. But I do deeply feel that our new life in Christ should manifest in a joy and zeal for living every moment to the fullest. Christ followers should be the most passionate people on earth!
- I am more excited about the future than I am about reliving the past.
I had a blast in high school. College was rich and a lot of fun. Getting married was very special. Seeing my firstborn was a moment I will never forget. Preaching my first sermon was very meaningful (Not to the listeners, I’m just glad they survived). Apart from my brain deteriorating, nothing or no one can take these memories away from me. But I cannot go back and I do not want to! The future is this incredible, unknown experience just waiting to be lived. I have no doubt my next 40 years will bring challenges and pleasures my heart cannot fathom today. However, not for one second would I trade tomorrow for a chance to relive yesterday.
10. I am closer to Heaven!
I have not made an effort here to offer a robust theology of aging. However, I cannot end without stating something that ought to be deeply embedded within every Christ follower. Any effort to fight, bemoan, or resent aging is an offense to God. Why?
Because when a person is redeemed, with every birthday he or she is closer to living forever in the presence of God. Access and acceptance require perfect righteousness, which has been graciously offered by God through Christ. A surface reading of the New Testament will reveal that the first Christ followers thought about and longed for Heaven often. If human history were compared to a 24 hour day, it has only been five minutes that we have enjoyed the measure of comfort and security we now expect.
In the world most of us live in, rampant disease has been eradicated, water is clean, food is plentiful, education is free, infrastructure is reliable, and protection from danger through policing and military personnel is just expected. However, most people who have ever existed have not experienced a fraction of this. Instead of being grateful for our fortunate place in history, we now see these remarkable living conditions as ordinary and even deserved. Life is so good we want to slow it down and prolong it. Read the hymns of our faith from 100 years ago and you will hear a different message. Aging, while at times hard, moves us closer to the unavoidable outcome of this life, which is death. Death, however, is the doorway to experience “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (I Corinthians 2:9). We bless God when we look at age in light of His glory and then excitedly age toward being with Him forever.
Like I said, I’m fired up to be 40. I hope you are fired up about your age.