“It’s just a number,” they said. Yeah, but, it’s a BIG number.
“You’re only as old as you feel,” they said. EXACTLY! Maybe I feel even older!
50. I’m not gonna lie. I’m having a bit of a hard time swallowing the fact that I am now half of a century old. Why is this such an issue? Lots of people have passed this way before me. And truthfully, I’m the last in my family to do so. Yet, somehow, they all survived. And some of all those people who have passed this way before me actually seem happy. So, what’s my issue?
It’s not the number so much. It’s the dark realization that, well, my life is nowhere near where I thought it would be. Part of the problem is, I’m not quite sure where I thought it would be at this point. I just didn’t think I’d be … here. 50. Really?
My wife asked me last Saturday if I wanted to go out to dinner to celebrate my birthday – 3 days early. I said, unequivocally, “No. No I do not. I am not ready.”
The way I saw it, I still had 3 days left of clinging to the idea that “I’m still in my 40’s.”
I told her I had 3 days to …. Lose 30 pounds.
3 days to … get in better shape.
3 days to …. choose a career path I actually want.
3 days to … become financially stable.
3 days to … start a ministry that will impact people and have significance.
The truth is, I’m not … unhappy. In fact, most days I am quite happy.
I enjoy my life. I have a beautiful, amazing, wife of over 30 years who is full of life and joy and most days we still like each other. I have a great family that I am very proud of. I enjoy my friends. I have a good job and work with some really good people. I have a decent home. I’m not hungry, naked, or lacking shelter. In many respects, we have it really, really good. And, just for icing on the cake, every now and then I get to be involved in some directed ministry opportunities.
But, I’m not where I want to be either. And it has nothing to do with my age. It has everything to do with my choices. I just hate feeling … behind, like I’m constantly playing catch-up.
And I think that’s where the disappointment comes in. I’m a little disappointed with where life has brought me to. In truth, I’m disappointed with … myself.
But here’s the thing: Yes, I’d like to be 30 pounds lighter. But that’s not really it. Yes, I’d like to be in much better shape. But that’s not really it. Sure I’d like to have a better paying job that doesn’t make me feel …stuck. But, that’s not really it either. Yes I’d like to have more money in the bank. But that’s not really the challenge. Yes I think my kids have grown up way too fast, but that’s not the issue either.
I’ve found myself pondering the end of life a lot lately. I want my life to have meaning. I want my life to have had an impact. I don’t want to just go through the motions. I don’t want people wondering what to say at my funeral. Especially my family.
There is an innate desire for … something more. For … significance.
There, I said it.
Some days I feel like my life has had significance. Some days I feel like my life and my influence has had an impact for good. But some days, not so much.
I used to have a great desire for a large pulpit ministry. But as life has thrown so many curve balls my way I’ve had to adjust my definition of “success” or “ministry.” I think my definition is much healthier now. But, sometimes it just feels like an excuse or a justification for where I’ve landed.
Some days I’m really good at focusing my heart and my attention on those He has put in front of me. Loving them. Caring for them. And I know deep within my heart that this is what He has called me to. But …
Some days I long for something bigger. Something more.
I don’t think this is the end game. I don’t think this is all there is.
And as I ponder and pray, I think this is exactly what God has called us to. I think this is the great tension in scripture. Let me explain.
Paul said, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be … content. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Phil 4:11-12).
The challenge many people have is that they are always striving for an elusive, idealistic picture. Constantly chasing after an illusion. Pushing, pressing, stretching for something that cannot be obtained. Why? Because it is human nature that every time we reach a milestone or a goal, rather than being satisfied with our achievement, we almost instantly move the goal posts. We got that raise and are making “X” amount of money. Great! But now we need the NEXT promotion. We reached that sales goal. Great! Well, since we can do that then we should be able to do even more. Lost “x” amount of weight. Excellent! But now we need to win the competition. In one sense there is nothing wrong with this. But, for many this is precisely why no matter how much they have or achieve, they are never truly happy. Sometimes people are surrounded by so many blessings but don’t recognize them because they are constantly focused on wanting more. They have so much but don’t see it because all they can see is what they don’t have.
And it’s even worse for many believers. Many believers wrongly assume that as soon as they decided to live their lives for Christ that everything was going to suddenly be sunshine and roses. But it’s just not true.
The problem is, when you seek after riches you end up living in the fear of lack. When you seek after beauty you end up living in the fear of being ugly. When you seek after power, you end up living in fear of being weak. When you seek performance, you end up living in fear of being insufficient. When you seek security, you end up living your life in insecurity.
But, when you live your life pursuing GOD, you end up feeling loved and accepted.
Paul said, I have learned to be content – no matter what state I find myself in. My internal compass is not determined by external challenges. My internal joy is not determined by external circumstances. My internal peace is not determined by external issues. I have learned to be content.
But, just a few verses earlier he said, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:12-14).
It is clear that Paul knew there was something more: things that still needed to be done, work that needed to be accomplished. He could have focused on all the things he had done wrong, or all the things he didn’t do that he should have. He could have let bad choices or circumstances derail him from purpose. But he didn’t. Paul intentionally chose to let go of the past. He wasn’t going to let mistakes, failures, life’s troubles, or anything else stop him from giving his life in pursuit of what God had in store for him. Paul didn’t pull up the rocking chair of life and settle in.
Yes, he had learned to be content … but, he was not satisfied.
Paul found himself somewhere between the “already” and the “not yet.”
Here’s the truth: Life is good. I am content. I choose to not focus on regret. I choose to appreciate, to love, to enjoy what is right before me.
But, I’m not satisfied either. I know there is something more. And even though I’m half a century old, I am not done.
I am somewhere between. I choose contentment with the “already.” But, I am striving toward the “not yet.”