I turn 40 today.
I just don’t feel like I am turning 40 today, if a person could even know what “40” feels like. Actually, inside I still feel I am about 23, with the exception of those times I hear strange crackling sounds when I climb the stairs. Honestly, it feels like any other day, except I recognize that it is a significant marker in life.
We had special guest missionaries come to speak at church this past Sunday. I have known them for at least 30 years. In fact, it probably was almost that long ago since we last seen each other. They recognized me more from looking at my son rather than at myself in my current form. Afterward, we chatted and joked along with my parents over lunch. It was Mother’s Day after all. Then our longtime friends extended an invitation for my wife and I to visit overseas to work with and learn from the young church leaders over in the land where they work. I said that I may no longer qualify as I was turning 40. His reply was swift. He said, “that is the perfect age”.
His reply hit me in a funny way. Because of his personality, I was anticipating a witty retort. I have thought about his response since then. “Perfect” in that I have lived long enough to go through some things, trip up a little, stumble a bit, overcome and walk my way through, but young enough to still dream and create and run.
I used to be more creative when I was younger, before responsibility and burden rested on my shoulders, before mortgage payments and car repairs and changing diapers. Creativity really requires time to truly bloom properly. It has squeaked out on occasion along the way in different forms, but not like it was. This reality hit me one day during a monastic retreat with a few choice colleagues in ministry last September.
We were asked to participate in a creative prayer exercise. We were given art supplies, paint, paper, modelling clay, crayons etc. We looked at our facilitator with tremendous masculinity and challenged him with our faces, “You do realize we are men, right?!” There was no recanting the request, so we gathered the materials of choice and many headed outside and disappeared into the beautiful grounds where we were staying. I stayed inside.
Outside my room window was a tree that captured my attention the moment I dropped my duffle bag on the bed. It was a strange combination of incredibly coloured leaves and crabapples adorning a gnarled structure of limbs. Before I knew it, I was recreating this tree, painting on art paper with coloured plasticine. As I shaped each limb and each leaf, God was quietly speaking to me, revealing how He is doing the same in my life.
When we reconvened, we were asked to share with the group what we created, and what the Lord was showing us through the exercise. I wrote some things down and shared it with my friends when it was my turn. Later at lunch, one of my colleagues whom I have tremendous respect for encouraged me to write. This guy is an avid reader, and not the light fluffy stuff we love to run to. No, he reads the rich and accomplished writings of theologians, philosophers and church fathers of the past. He talks about theology and philosophy with the same passion that I talk about my iPhone and the Ottawa Senators. And so I left that retreat encouraged to become creative again, but in an unexpected new way.
It seems fitting to me that my first post coincides with my 40th birthday. It is not because I have reached a level of wisdom or grizzled knowledge. It is not because anyone should read anything I will occasionally post. I realize that if I don’t start writing things down now, I may start forgetting! It is good to write things down. And so, here it is.