I turned 36 today. I had a friend of mine who is an old man (putting that there because I’m pretty sure he’ll be reading this) recently told me I am “in my prime.” While not by NFL standards, unless you’re Tom Brady I guess, I do suppose 36 is “prime” age for life in ministry and life in general. It’s the beginning of the season of your life where you are learning from the mistakes you made over the previous 20 years (rather than blindly continuing to commit them), yet you’re full of energy and vigor for the next 20. It’s not that you won’t make more mistakes, but you’ve hopefully been humbled and observed enough about yourself that you’ve become wiser in how you approach life.
But when we think about being “in our prime,” we usually take that to mean we’ve got a lot of gas left in the tank. That we have many more years on this earth. Some might see these “prime” years as the time to live it up. To live for themselves. To make pleasure the number one priority. Others might see it as the time to work 100 hours a week in order to pile up as much cash and status as possible, for a comfortable life and feeling of accomplishment at retirement. What I’m seeing at 36 is 40. What I’m seeing at 40 is remembering when my dad turned 40. There were black balloons and a big hoopla made. What I’m seeing at 40 is friends with cancer. I lost a friend to cancer in 2018, age 60. I lost another friend to an unexpected heart attack, age 60. Both full of life. Both with kids. Both with vibrant ministries. 2018 also included one of my neighbors unexpectedly passing away. I have several other friends fighting serious forms of cancer right now. One of them is younger than me, the other not much older.
Many people long to go back to their “prime” years because it gives a feeling of ageless eternity. As if we can bottle that up and never lose it. Like reminiscing about my years in college and what a fruitful season of life that was, then wondering how I got so old, so fast. We like to remember because we want this life to last forever. It was meant to in the original design, but it doesn’t anymore. We hate to think about it, but every day is one day closer to death.
As I get older, and I’m not old yet…not like my old man friend is (he’s going to love this)…but losing friends unexpectedly to death’s authoritative blow has sobered me. I am not invincible. I will die. My kids will have to live without a dad. It might be a long time from now, it might be tomorrow. Losing friends to death has reminded me of the supernatural. Can you really look in the mirror and believe that when your body doesn’t work anymore, that you will cease to exist? That your consciousness and personhood is only created by and confined to your brain’s swishing chemical dance?
How bizarre that we don’t talk about what happens after death more than we do. That we don’t consider the possible realities of heaven and hell. That we bank on “being a good person” to “get us in to heaven,” as if we were the authoritative judge on what the definition of “good” is. That there wasn’t a Holy Judge who determines “good” and that “good” is something we could never attain. That we need a Redeemer, a Reconcilier, a Savior to attain goodness on our behalf. That we live like we can save ourselves, when all we really need is someone strong enough to save us. I cannot imagine the anxiety of thinking I could save myself.
Getting older makes me think of my many friends who have left their faith, or who have not been able to even start. Every time I think of this, I think of the conversation between Peter and Jesus in John 6:67-68:
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
Lord, to whom shall we go? I get it, you don’t like some things the Bible says. Or you don’t like how the Bible was put together. Or you don’t like what someone told you about the Bible. But to whom shall you go? Who else has the words of eternal life?
I sort of understand those who become devout followers of Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, etc., but most of my friends are just winging it. And notably, those religions don’t provide saviors, only rules to follow to be “good enough,” as if that were possible. But my point here is those followers have at least chosen a plan versus the more and more popular make-it-up-as-you-go strategy.
My reflection on turning 36 is I’m going to tell a lot more people about Jesus. I’m just going to tell them and let God take care of the rest. I’m going to care less about what they think of me. I have all these reasons why a person wouldn’t believe in Jesus, so it stops me from telling them about Jesus. Instead of living like that, because who knows how much longer I or they have to live, I’m just going to tell them:
Jesus loves you. Because he does! And he died on the cross for your sins. Because he did! And he did it to save you. To bring you into a relationship with him, with a holy God. He came to save you and love you and he wants you to love him in return and believe that only He can save you. You can’t save yourself.
Our “prime” is just an illusion. Or at best, a vapor that melts before noon.
We are eternal beings.
Do you have a plan?
Are you the plan? Because no offense, but if you think you have the power to save yourself, I’m not betting on you. As in, I’m not betting on you to have the power to save me, so I don’t think you should bet on yourself to be able save you.
I certainly hope you wouldn’t be on me to save you, because you’d be up a creek. So why are you betting on yourself?
I am betting on Jesus. I feel really good about it.
I hope you join me.
Author of Beyond the Battle: A man's guide to his identity in Christ in an oversexualized world
Host of the The Flip Side Podcast
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