Birthday Blah to Rah Rah

images-1I dreaded my birthday. I loved the party and the attention, but it was so bittersweet because I was another year older and more decrepit.

I’d always wanted to be 27. I thought 27 was the perfect age. You were young and virile, not yet expected to have done much so all was over-achieving. You were healthy and sporty, but yet also wise and mature.

I hit 27 and kept going. So when I was in my mid thirties, I kept resenting this time of year, and what it meant for my youth. I was fading.

I’d go into a funk (ask Julie). It felt like a daze, a haze. I couldn’t focus. I snapped at people. I struggled. I blamed my birthday and getting another year older.

However, through some counseling and thinking, I finally realized that that wasn’t it after all. I was exhausted every October. Campus ministry pushed me to the brink in August, September and October. I felt alienated from Julie and the kids. I felt pulled in a million directions by my students. I felt like I could never measure up to other ministries which were cooler, sexier, gospel-ier with better locations, better staffs, better budgets, better pipelines, better buildings.

But I didn’t realize that at time, so I scapegoated my birthday.

What I needed was something different. I needed to rest more in the fall, to embrace the craziness but also to combat it with some time alone and release valves along the way. And I needed to see that growing older is a good thing. I may not be able to dunk any more (questionable if I ever could), but big deal. There is something to the hoary hairs growing – there just might be some wisdom in there as we age. I might be more patient, more kind, more giving, more loving. I might not. But I know I have more freedom, not less. I know God loves me more, not less. I love Julie more than I ever have. My kids are great. My church is growing and I’m thankful to be where I am. I don’t want to be 27 again.

When I was 27, I was in my first year at Covenant Seminary. I’d finished 6-week Greek over the summer and wasted a ton of time on my tan (that’s another story). I had no idea how I’d pay for seminary or life. We’d moved three times in 24 months. We only had two of our four kids. I was angry and had a chip on my shoulder. I was one of those rabid Calvinists you’re afraid of talking to. I needed to chill out. I needed to know more grace, peace, joy, forgiveness, love, faithfulness.

I’ll take 43 thanks. God is gracious and good, and I’m thankful. No funk needed (though I still have some). It’s still exhausting and hard work, but God is more real and alive and present than ever before.