Turning 50

Birthday50

I am turning 50 years old today (April 5, 2017). On the one hand, I feel no difference. I feel the same today as I did yesterday. My life this week will look much like my life did last week. The rhythm of my life this year will probably match the rhythm of last year: Easter, Summer Vacation, Thanksgiving, Christmas, … (repeat). Some things change from day to day, but not much. Time marches on.

Yet, I have crossed a threshold. In all probability, I have already lived out half of my life. I am on the back end. Moses wrote long ago, “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty” (Psalm 90:10).

I see my strength fading. I can’t run as fast (or as long) as I used to run. I can’t jump as high. My endurance is less. My injuries don’t heal as quickly. I have less hair and more weight than ever before.

Furthermore, I see my time slipping away. The older I get, the faster time seems to fly. I remember when I was in elementary school. Even today, I could take you to my classroom and name my teachers and my friends. I remember my days in middle school and in high school and in college and in seminary. They seem only a few years ago, even though they were decades ago.

Today is a natural time in my life for reflection. Moses (in the same Psalm) prayed for wisdom regarding our fleeting time. He wrote, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

There is something about all of us all that lets our days pass by unnoticed and uncared for. We move from day to day without a care. Yet, our end is coming. The death rate is still 100%. Moses encourages us to live in light of the end.

I have noticed that ball games are played differently when time is ticking down. Those in the lead take their time. Those who are behind show more hustle. I have noticed that people live differently when a big project is nearing completion. When the project due date is weeks away, people are willing to spend the evenings with their friends. But when the due date is tomorrow, they brew the coffee and burn the midnight oil.

How easy it is to live as if there is no end. How easy is it to eat and drink and enjoy the God-given pleasures of the world. But there is an end. And the end is coming. It is coming fast. I am closer to it than ever before. It’s a call for me to live with a sense of urgency. My prayer to God this day is that I would number my days. Such is the path of wisdom.

But the end of our lives is not the end. Moses began his Psalm with a declaration of eternity, “From everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:2). This is why we are to number our days. They are short.

We can number our days, but we cannot number eternity. Eighty years of life are less than 30,000 days. It may seem long, but compared with eternity, it barely begins. The hymn-writer penned these words to put our short life in perspective:

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun;
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
than when we first begun.
(by Harriet Beecher Stowe)

My life here on earth is only the beginning. It is a very short beginning. In light of eternity, my few years (being more than 50 now) are but a fleeting vapor. James says, “You are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

If we truly knew how long eternity was; and if we truly knew how short our lives were, we might just live differently. We might live with a sense of urgency. God has put eternity into man’s heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). He wants for us to live in light of eternity. And when we do, we will be wise.

Only one life, ’twill soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
(by C. T. Studd)

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