on turning 30
"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing" (Annie Dillard).
"The life of faith is lived one day at a time, and it has to be lived -- not always looked forward to as though the 'real' living were around the next corner. It is today for which we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow" (Elisabeth Elliot).
"Old age is the harvest of all the years that have gone before" (James Russell Miller).
"I've always thought that a race should demand as much as I can give. When I get to the finish line, the worst thing I can think is that I could have gone a 10th of a second faster" (Adam van Koeverden).
There is often an imagined threshold between the ages of 29 and 30, a fictional partition between a dissipating youth and an inevitable aging, a change perceived to be as drastic as walking up a cliff one day and stepping off the edge the next. Rather, "growing up" is evenly measured out, day by day, so stealthily perhaps that we unwittingly impose the thresholds every decade as a means of abrupt remembrance: oh right, I'm getting older. As though we did not notice that we had already begun to wear the years of experience on our faces. As though we did not sense the prompt passage of time, its flying by, leaving a weight of urgency pressed upon our hearts.
Sometimes we see a person whose character we deeply respect or who has accomplished something particularly meaningful and we chalk it all up to some intangible: personality, giftedness, genes, or the kindness of circumstances. These things are obviously not without effect, but I think we attribute too much to them and too little to the ordinary ascent forged in the everyday of life. It's like watching the Olympics and seeing polished athletes performing at the height of their ability and skill but neglecting to consider the years of personal investment and sacrifice, the countless hours of disciplined training, and the tedious repetition required to perfect a single motion in order to recall it reflexively at just the right moment. There are a thousand small choices, day after day, and the person we become is often an accumulation of these subtleties. What we are doing is who we are becoming.
When I reflect on the years of my life, I am thankful for the sovereignty and the kindness of God. I look back and see God's specific care and abundant provision for me. I can see how his wisdom outweighs my own. I am remembering again how crucial it is for me to truly trust that God acts in infinite love and wisdom for my very best interest and for my eternal good. Too often I react like a petulant child who only wants what she wants right this very second, threatening to throw a tantrum when things don't go her way. When I can remember that it is my loving, heavenly Father who holds my heart and my life in his hands, that he is completely trustworthy and faithful, I experience so much more of the comprehensive peace and joy God intends for us to find in him.
I am especially grateful that in spite of the poor choices I have made in my life, in spite of the stubbornness of my heart and my sin, God has been pleased to lavish his grace on someone like me. I do not approach God on the basis of my own supposed goodness, but because, by grace through faith, I have been clothed with the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. God's grace changes everything. The interruption of God's grace in my life fourteen years ago, aptly described as a rebirth, changed everything for me. And as amazing as that particular moment in space and time was, that rescue from darkness to light, it has been God's constant presence and cumulative goodness to me since (and, really, in theological hindsight, over the whole of my life) that causes me to pause and give thanks and, sometimes, yes, weep. Where would I be without Christ's redemptive work in my life?
At the age of 30, I realize that I am in the thick of the race of life. It is not glamorous. It is not easy. And many days it feels like a fight. I want to be honest about that. There are many days when I feel weak and weary. There are many days when I lose sight of my identity in Christ, of the reality of the Holy Spirit dwelling in me, and of the person who, by God's grace, I am called to be and to become. There are many days when instead of living purposefully in light of the gospel, I let myself drift into sin and disobedience and into believing lies instead of God's truths and promises. But these actually can be days when God's love and the gospel become astonishingly sweet to me, when the Holy Spirit leads me to grieve over my sin and then reminds me of God's extravagant love and the sufficiency of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and resurrection for the forgiveness of my sin -- "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
Such days, really, are like every day. I know I need to remember the gospel everyday, to allow the habits of my heart and my life to be shaped by the gospel, and to look forward to the certain someday of the new heaven and the new earth. At this point in the race of my life, I just know I need to keep running. And I know that it will be worth it.
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever" (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
So when I think about the years of my life that have led to age 30, I can't help but apply the words my Old Testament Survey professor used this past summer in referring to God's kingdom: already and more to come. In Christ, God has given me a new, abundant, and beautiful life -- already and more to come.
This is the spirit of the New Testament -- people pressing on towards the mark, straining at the leash, looking forward, going forward with all their might. And because they are looking at the vision of glory for which they are destined, they are pressing on towards it and towards Him, forgetting the things that are behind, redeeming the time, buying up the opportunity, using every second because of the certainty that they will see Him as He is and that they will be like Him (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Life in Christ: Studies in 1 John, 305).