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On Turning 40

December 31, 2007

I turned 40 two weeks ago.  I was greatly cheered by the company of good friends, but in terms of clarifying self-reflection, the day was unremarkable.  I think I am to learn something from the absence of such an epiphany.  John Piper spoke at a pastor’s conference several years ago of the incompatibility of joy and self-consciousness.   He said that as he was engaged in sermon preparation he stopped to ask himself, “Am I enjoying this right now?” and the asking of the question chased away the joy.  We experience joy when we are engaged in something outside of ourselves.  As soon as we stop to examine it, we destroy it. 

So what I expectantly hope for in the second half of my life is a decrease in self-consciousness.  In the first half of our lives we spend a lot of time trying to figure out who we are.   I want the second half of my life to be about other people.   Jean Paul Sartre said, “Hell is other people.”   Let’s be honest, we can all sympathize.  But that sentence strikes me now as the sentence more evil than which no sentence can be conceived.   The truth is that hell is narcissism and, in the words of Jonathan Edwards, heaven is a world of love.

At the beginning of this month I started volunteering one half day a week at the local homeless shelter.   So I worked an 11-3 shift there on my birthday.  I was sitting at something like a receptionist’s counter when a resident came and asked to use the phone to call about a job interview.   After the call he began to talk with me about his hope that he would get this job and about how he was waiting to see how the Lord would lead and provide.  I asked him how long he had known the Lord and he said, “I’ve known him for about 46 years but I only started listening to him a few months ago.”  He’s a funny guy.   Turns out he had been brought to the shelter just few days earlier by a Free Church pastor I know who lives over an hour away.  What an unlikely connection.

I went back there on Saturday.  He got the job and is doing well.  I spent the whole afternoon with him.  We went out for coffee and I helped him get some prescription glasses he very much needed.  I shouldn’t go into any more detail here, but the point is this: I believe that God’s bringing this man across my path was His 40th birthday present to me and I thank Him for it.  

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 31, 2007 1:04 pm

    To be fair to Sartre, his point was that we shouldn’t let ourselves be defined by other people. We shouldn’t be controlled by other people’s view of us. But for Sartre the only alternative was self-determination. We, however, can learn to see ourselves as God declares us to be. This then frees us to be “defined” by others in the “limited” sense of the word. We can be self-emptying and allow limits to be put upon us by other people precisely because we know who we are in Christ.

    John 13:3-5 Jesus, *knowing* that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

  2. egana permalink
    January 2, 2008 8:37 pm

    I am noticing that my desires to serve are often thwarted by my fear of how that service will be perceived and critiqued. I pose as the critical one, and practice answering for myself so that I will be ready when the real thing happens. So then I am safe from criticism, but also the fear of it drives me away from service.

    Yesterday in the car on the way to the grocery store I almost burst into tears, I was so frustrated. But then the Lord reminded me of how the woman who gave a little was not mocked by him for the smallness of her gift, but was honored because she gave what she had to give. I was so glad to imagine myself in her company.

    So I can give without fear, because the Lord rejoices over me with singing, and he loves a cheerful giver, and when I listen to Him and believe what He says about me, then I don’t care very much at all about the criticism of others.

    So here are my mites that I joyfully offer to the Lord!

    1. Angie and I are going to start stocking shelves at the Vineyard Food Pantry on Monday evenings. We wanted to hang out, but not just hang out. We wanted to serve, and we wanted to do something physical. Thanks goes out to our deacon of community service for finding this opportunity for us.

    2. Everyone knows how I love on the babies in our church. I am constantly scanning the moms, looking for a little baby fix. Gorf helped me see I can harness this desire and use it for good at the Crisis Nursery. I can go and hold babies and play with little ones who need good sweet love. I have downloaded the application, and will be getting that started soon, I hope.

    3. Gorf and I like to watch movies at night. This week I bought some soft baby yarn, and am going to try to knit up a baby blanket while we watch, instead of simply staring at the flashy screen across the room. I am not a fantastic knitter, so this one might even need to be worth less than a mite, but it is all I can offer, and I can start TODAY!

    So there it is, all out in the open, for anyone to criticize and expose how naive I must be to think that my tiny efforts will help anyone.

    But, I’m in good company, with that poor widow. And we have a good Advocate on our side. And it is a joy to serve when the fuel is the love of God for me.

    (p.s. it occurs to me that this might be better posted on my own blog. If you want me to move it, just delete it and I’ll put in on the Tapdance. *grin*

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