I turned 36 last Friday. This means a few things: I’m officially about mid-life. I’m now on the back side of my thirties. It also has me thinking about what I did with the first 35 years. These are the sort of exercises that can depress a man, because we tend to remember the tough parts more than the good parts–though most of my own journey has been really great. But, reflection is important anyways. So, here are some things I’ve noticed about myself as I’ve gotten older.

  • My body is aging. I can remember when I would make fun of the old guys. In response I would hear them say my day was coming. Well, the truth of their words is felt and seen in speckles of gray now scattered among what was once a jet-black forest of hair. I also have to work much harder to stay in even semi-decent shape. No one “cards” me any more for anything. And, I get called “sir” a lot. I listen to talk-radio a lot. I’m just getting older.
  • My social relationships have changed. I’ve realized that I’ve gone from little brother or friend to big brother in many of my relationships. I’m still little brother to my older mentors, but I’m now the guy some of my dearest friends (who are younger) ask for advice and help. I’ve also come to realize the immense value of loyal, godly friends. This is something I’ve always known. But, they become and even greater blessing with time.
  • My ministry has morphed over time. I used to spend a disproportionate amount of time and focus on preparation and delivery of sermons. Right now, I feel like I’m a more rounded church leader. I spend more time with people in the congregation just enjoying them and getting to know them. I spend more time on the strategic leadership components. And, yes, I still prepare sermons. But, as I’ve found my routine, I can do so more efficiently (but no less thoroughly). Nevertheless, I feel like I have a lot of growing left to do as a preacher, and look forward to doing so with the Lord’s help. I think I’m going to give that a few years of concerted effort.
  • My thirties have been pretty challenging so far. I woke up on my birthday realizing my Facebook Wall had been turned off for quite a while. It was a relic of a time when war was in the air, life was full of turbulence and I couldn’t trust that someone wouldn’t vandalize my Wall. Thankfully, times are different. The phrase “this too shall pass,” which I’ve always hated, has some truth to it.
  • Never stop learning. Just from the time I turned 30 until now, I’ve learned a ton and had several experiences that changed the way I say a lot of things I’d simply assumed from the time I was a kid. This reminds me that if the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise–I’ve got a ridiculous amount of learning left to do.
  • I find the church infinitely fascinating. There’s almost nothing I enjoy more than learning about church leadership, studying a church’s successes/challenges, counseling someone facing challenges or listening to a really good sermon. I still enjoy preaching, still love people, and still love trying to tackle big mountains for God.
  • Spiritual formation is ongoing, not achieved. I know that may seem obvious, but it’s really true. I don’t know if the tests or the steps forward are actually different. It’s more like the venues change. The opponent is the same, but the stadium and sports change. Thus, the path to spiritual growth can, at times, be like an olympics of sorts. When you think you’ve done well at something for a while, a humbling event is on it’s way. When you realize you can really throw the javelin, you’ll soon realize you can’t swim very well. The good news is, we play for the winning team and there is no greater trainer or coach than the Holy Spirit. The more I surrender to His training and instruction, the better race I run.

I would love to hear the things you’ve learned this year. What has God taught you recently?