Friday, September 1, 2017

Daniel Forty Point Oh

There’s nothing novel about feeling pensive—to use the word a friend used to describe my reflections—as you turn 40. In fact, not only does writing this article feel like a cliché, it also feels a little bit too “Daniel-centric.” The word “I” is used too frequently, but hopefully that’s not a distraction.

Those who are older than 40 and read this article might say, “How cute! It’s fun to see kids engage in introspection.” Those who are younger might say, “How cute! It’s fun to see old people engage in introspection.” Whatever stage of life you’re at, hopefully you’ll find this encouraging as you seek to pursue Christ and change by His grace.

Several weeks ago, as I was praying about how I want God to change me this next decade, I wrote the following statement:

I want my forties to be characterized by gentleness, thankfulness, and greater holiness as I seek to love God and others through my union with Christ.

Here’s what I mean by that statement:

“I want…”

This is something I desire. I don’t think I will obtain this desire perfectly but it seems to be in line with what God would desire for me, so I’m hopeful.

“…my forties…”

Yeah…it would be nice if I wrote, “my thirties,” but I can’t. I’m still excited about all the things that come with being in my forties. My children are fun ages. I’m further along in my ministry. Whitney and I can spend more time with one another because the kids are more self-sufficient. This is a sweet spot.

“…to be characterized…”

My goal isn’t perfection but a general trajectory in which sanctification is noticed by those who know and love me.

“…by gentleness…”

While I want to continue to be a person who is willing to speak the truth, I want others around me—especially my family—to see me as a person who is gentle in his love for them. It is time for the young man with some harder edges to meet his timely demise.

“…by thankfulness…”

Why have I said so many negative things over forty years when God has been so gracious to me? In my daily prayer list, I’ve written down Psalm 40:5 to meditate on daily: “
You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.”

Whatever time any of us have until the Lord returns or calls us home, it is insufficient to fully proclaim the wonderful deeds of the Lord. In my leadership at church and at home, I want my words to help people see the amazing things the Lord is doing around them.

Committing to thankfulness doesn’t mean I will approach life naively and pretend like bad things don’t exist. It just means keeping them in balance; the majority of my communication should be focused on proclaiming the reality that God is good and His works are wondrous!

“…and greater holiness…”

By “holiness,” I mean “devotion to God.” This is exciting to me because pursuing the Lord in love through faith changes
every other area in which I could ever want to change!

“…as I seek to love God and others…”

This is also pretty broad. I guess I’m basically saying, “I want to pursue the two greatest commandments and trust that everything else will follow.”

“…through my union with Jesus Christ.”

There is really no hope of changing apart from this reality: I have been united with Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection. Forty years may or may not make me “old,” but it is definitely a long enough stretch of time for thought processes and actions to become habits. Some habits need transforming by the power of Christ.

A few more thoughts

There is a blessing to the physical process of aging I hadn't considered until recently. I’m more aware of my physical limitations and the way God uses those limitations to draw us to Himself. When I feel discouraged or down about things, one of the first questions I now ask myself is, “How much sleep did I get last night?”

If you had asked me 15 years ago how I felt about my body aging and feeling “different” physically and mentally, I would have said I felt scared. Things like “competiveness” and “drive” felt fundamental to my make up as a person.

Over the past 15 years, however, I’ve realized that there were other, less kind, words that could also be used to describe my character. And things like my perfectionism—which seemed like such a great attribute(!)—made other people’s lives difficult and robbed them of joy.

As I went for a run recently, I thought to myself, “if aging allows me to mellow—what a gift from God it is!” And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’m convinced that one of God’s gifts in aging is the blessing of “mellowing.” I shared this thought with Whitney. She laughed and said, “Well, you had this thought after getting up early and going for a run. So, if this is mellowing….”

She’s right. But if God is gracious and I began to see some of these changes, here’s what I believe can happen over the next decade: I’m going to feel less discouragement as I measure success differently. I’m going to lose my temper with the kids less. I’m going to graciously believe the best in others. I’m going to feel less anxiety as I love God more. I’m going to be a better leader of my family and church as I point out the joys of the Lord in all areas of life. I’m going to invest more in people. I’m going to trust God and not “eat the bread of anxious toil."

It’s going to be a great decade of learning what it means to love God more.


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