Nov 262018 8 Responses

To Me on My 41st Birthday

There is a small book in my desk at work where each April I write a letter to Silas on his birthday. One day, maybe at a graduation or rehearsal dinner, I’ll give him the book. It’s my way of tracking time and one day letting him know what I was feeling with each passing year. In that light, I thought this year on my birthday I would write a letter to myself.

Dear Kevin,

Only two birthdays ending in 1 really matter and 41 isn’t among them. That’s evidenced by how you will spend the day. At age one, everyone gathers to watch you smash a cake. At twenty-one, all your friends try to show you a good time (unless you’re a preacher and then they just send you a card). At 41, you go to work, endure staff meeting, and celebrate by maybe coming home five minutes early. Ain’t adulthood fun.

While 41 is different than 1 and 21, they do have something in common. All three are ages of transition. The first is a transition out of infancy. The second is a move to adulthood. The third is a true movement into the middle stage of life. Like it or not, that’s where you are. The good news about middle age is that you have lived long enough to have accomplished some things and you should have enough life left to accomplish others.

What You’ve Accomplished

It doesn’t feel like it, but you’ve already been married longer than most. If the average marriage is between 8-12 years, you’ve long had that beat. As you near your 19th anniversary, Jenny is your greatest accomplishment. The marriage is a gift, not an achievement. However, the engagement was an accomplishment. How you got her to say “I do,” I’ll never understand. How you keep her from killing you when you say, “Is there anything for dinner other than what you cooked?” is a great mystery. God has given you many things, Kevin, but Jenny is the best.

The pastorate is a lot like some marriages. There are ups and downs and on occasion, it might seem easier to go a different way, but there is a blessing to sticking it out. The average tenure of a pastor is 3.6 years. That means by now you should’ve been in 4.5 churches instead of still being in your first. But here you are. Appreciate it. Notice the privilege of trust you’ve been given and never take for granted the number of people who consistently love you and your family.

When you were 16, your mentor handed you a book and said, “If you want to be a preacher, you’ve got to be a reader.” Soon after that, you determined if you were called to be a preacher, you were also tasked with being an author. It took twenty years to truly start the process, but three books in three years allows you to check the author box off your bucket list. Keep writing–it’s the only way you truly know how to figure out what you think and believe.

What’s Left to Accomplish

If my life ended tomorrow, I could truly look at my Creator and say “thank you” for the life I’ve had. Yet at what is hopefully the half-way point there are still more things left to accomplish.

Ella and Silas have been a great joy, but it’s possible the real work is about to begin. The newborn stage is exhausting. The elementary years can be taxing. But I have a feeling the teenage and young adult years will be a test that can’t be fully anticipated. For me and Jenny, our challenge is to raise one child whose launches into the world on his own while raising another who forms her own identity while still with us. It should be an interesting time navigating what lies ahead.

For me, the ministry is more than a job, it’s a calling. It’s not something I will one day transition out of. However, I’m keenly aware that how I’ve done ministry for the past fifteen years won’t be how I’ll do it for the next fifteen. If nothing else, the pace is not sustainable. I’m intrigued to see how I’ll do my same job in a different way over the coming decades.

There are still books to be written. I feel like I’ve spent the last five years learning how to write/publish. I hope the next fifteen years are spent writing/publishing the works that I’ll be proud to leave behind.

The Bad News

41 does bring with it some bad news. While you’ve said your 30s was your favorite decade, most would label their 40s as their most difficult. With aging bodies, increasing work-pressure, raising teenagers, aging parents, and the awareness that some dreams in life won’t be experienced, the 40s can be more of a challenge than some other stages.

So I have some simple advice–endure and enjoy. In part, transitions have to be endured. You aren’t what you are going to be so don’t make any foolish decisions. Things will settle. You’ll figure out middle life like you’ve figured out other stages of life. Just endure.

But as you endure, also enjoy. Don’t miss it. There are too many good things around you that need to be appreciated and celebrated. Life is too short to take a season off from gratitude.



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