I’ve never been much on birthdays. Only two stand out—my sixteenth, because it promised the freedom of driving, and my eighteenth, because it promised the freedom of most everything else. The rest? Meh.
But tomorrow I turn forty. Forty feels different. Like it should mean a little more than the little my birthdays usually mean.
I find this a bit unsettling. Thanks to the marvel that is modern medical technology, age shouldn’t (and really even doesn’t) matter much anymore. I’ve heard the forty is the new thirty. I hope that proves true. But there is still that nagging thought in my mind that to be forty was to be elderly only a few centuries ago, and it was downright ancient a few centuries before that.
I feel fine. Let’s get that out of the way. I’m healthy. I’m in good shape. All my parts work. And aside from an occasional popping sound in my left knee whenever I stand and a little tug in my shoulder when the weather is cool and damp, I feel no different at forty than at twenty. Sure, I’m losing hair in all the right places and gaining it in all the wrong ones. But I’ve been doing that since I was eighteen.
There’s a ballgame on as I write this. Yankees vs. Rays. Perfect way to spend an afternoon, until I realize that I’m much closer to the age of the managers than I am the players.
If I really get to the heart of the matter—“To the brass tacks,” as the old farts around here say—I’d say that my apprehension of entering a new decade has less to do with age and more to do with field placement. Think of life as a football field. I read recently that the life expectancy of a healthy American is about eighty. If that’s true, I am currently standing at the fifty yard line.
Tomorrow, I’ll be halfway to the end zone.
I know, I know. Such things aren’t really all that exact. I could live to be a hundred. I might not see fifty. But that’s not really what I mean. What I mean is that chances are good that I’ve lived half of my life.
It’s moments like this that make a person take stock of things. Call it a mental and spiritual inventory, a tallying of goods and services. As in—what good have I done? What bad? And are those scales balanced, or are they leaning in one way or the other?
Have I lived a good life?
Have I been a good and faithful servant?
Honestly? I’d say those scales are balanced. Maybe leaning a bit the wrong way, but just a bit. I’m still young enough to try to be a good person, but I’m old enough to know there are no good people, there’s just grace and hard trying.
I wish I could have done more in the first half of my life. I wish I could have done less. Such is what it means to be alive.
Me, I’m hoping the next forty years are spent wiser than the first. I think the way to do that is to ask God every day what I did wrong, what I did right, and what I can do better tomorrow.
Maybe I should have been asking that all along.