Today is my thirtieth birthday. If I were an ancient Levite, I would now be eligible for service at the tent of meeting (Num 4). According to Jewish tradition, I am now permitted to read the Song of Songs.
In Western culture, age thirty signifies for many the entrance into full-fledged adulthood. The early- and even mid-twenties are a time of figuring things out, of extended adolescence (or “adultolescence”). By thirty, though, you’re expected to have a plan and be well on your way to…”life,” however that is construed.
Five years ago, I wrote this post taking society to task on the low expectations for our young people. It’s certainly worth considering whether those expectations are too lax. However, in many ways our expectations are higher than ever: they need to finish college, have a grand plan for life, achieve some level of financial security, and find someone to date and eventually marry (someone who may have a completely different career track, which is an important consideration given how many homes are two-income households these days).
I count myself extremely blessed at age thirty: I have all the most important things in life, and lots of the other less important things that are pleasant. I have a phenomenal relationship with my beautiful wife. I have two healthy children who are cheerful and fun, and love me very much. I have the best job in the world: I get to study, teach, and write about things that I love all day long. I have no debt. I get to eat chocolate and watch sports sometimes. I have good friends and extended family who send me Kindle books for my birthday (that’s a hint!). I could go on ad nauseam.
By most measures, I’m the poster-child for “achievement” in professional life, academics, financial responsibility, experiences, family, ministry, et cetera. If anyone has reason to boast–to paraphrase Paul in Philippians 3 and 2 Corinthians 11–I have more.
And yet, I recognize that I stand indebted to God in every one of these areas. I was blessed to grow up in an upper-middle-class home with two parents who love me and and gave me many blessings, material and immaterial.
As I look back over my life, especially the last twelve years, I see numerous junctures at which a single unfavorable “bounce of the football” could have undone much of what I’ve achieved and received. A single unwise decision senior year almost cost me the chance to ever work at a university (ask me about it sometime). A callback on a long-shot job possibility turned into an eight-year “mini-career” in pharma that paid all my debts and put me through seminary and grad school–not to mention all the friends I made and the skills I learned along the way. It’s those dozens–even hundreds–of moments that make me ask, “Why me? Why did God choose to rescue/bless me in this way?” There are probably dozens more moments that I don’t even know about: a distracted driver saw my car just in time and avoided an accident, or something like that. (Look at me, going all Sliding Doors on you…)
It doesn’t so much matter whether you have your doctorate or a good job by age thirty, or age twenty-five or thirty-five. It matters whether you’re “seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness.” I guess I want to balance/nuance what I wrote five years ago: “achievement” is secondary to pursuing God and learning to love Him on that journey.