I’m turning 40 years old on Sunday. Which means if I’m lucky, I’m at the halfway point. Although I think 80 might be wishful thinking if I don’t start increasing my daily mobility.
Sitting on my butt for prolonged increments of time is one of the shared job descriptions that unites my roles as pastor, writer and radio host. Some days I feel like a stalagmite. However, unlike the stalagmite, I will change my location when confronted with perpetually dripping water droplets.
To note the passing of my life, my lovely wife has decided to throw me a big birthday party, or as I like to call it, my funeral rehearsal. I’m not a big party kind of guy, but it will be nice to see who might possibly show up when I kick the can and mosey into the afterlife. And yes, I will most likely mosey into the afterlife because, as I stated before, I live a very sedentary life.
As a pastor, I’ve done a fair amount of funerals, and I’ve always felt somewhat frustrated by the testimony or remembrance time in those services. That’s the point when friends, family, co-workers and the occasional “who in the world is that?” get up and share fond stories about the recently departed. I’ve heard some really amazing stories and heartfelt thoughts during memorial services. However, I’ve often thought that it would have been far better for the deceased to hear these things while they were still living. Why do we have to wait for someone to leave the room before we say something nice about them?
So this weekend I get to see a bunch of the people who love me or at least tolerate my existence. I’ll hear some kinds words and some genuine heartfelt congratulations. I’ll also receive a prolonged dose of relentless teasing. I assume the rapid progression of my perpetually greying, perpetually receding hair will be duly noted. And for the most part, little or no sympathy will be given to the plight of my aging.
I’ve found that people who are older than you have little sympathy for your age milestones; they are there to remind you to quit your whining. People who are younger than you have little or no understanding of what you’re going through; they are there to remind you that you really have no idea how you will feel about yourself in the future. Consequently, I will need to find other 40-year-olds in the room if I’m in need of sympathy or understanding.
Since I’ll only turn 40 once in my existence, I think I will use this moment to give my friends, family, co-workers and “who in the world is that?” a little sage advice concerning what I’ve discovered in my 40-year journey.
Don’t waste your life trying to prove your worth to others. There will always be Pharisees in the room who want to steal your joy. God is your worth and your value. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone. The cross is proof of your immense value and worth.
Remove yourself from bitter fields. Your heart will grow hard and your words will grow sour if you poison your life with conversations and activities rooted in tearing people down. Malicious talk, gossip and unforgiveness will steal away your peace and destroy your fruitfulness.
Learn to love difficult people. Maturity is not found in escaping difficult people and difficult situations. Maturity is demonstrated in learning to love when the situation feels unlovely.
Learn to love the people who’ve been entrusted to your care. Give your best time, energy and resources to this practice.
Follow the radical leading of God’s Holy Spirit. Even if it makes you stand out and look foolish.
Say you’re sorry often, with sincere conviction. We are wrong far more than we are often willing to admit.
Avoid religious systems and institutions that turn Christianity into anything but a loving relationship with God.
Smile and start exercising. … You’ve got much more love to give.
I’ve got more thoughts, but I’m tired of sitting here. I think I might go out for a walk.
“Live from Seattle with Doug Bursch” can be heard 4-6 p.m. weekdays on KGNW 820 AM. Doug Bursch also pastors Evergreen Foursquare Church. Evergreen meets at 10 a.m. Sundays at 2407 M St. SE next to Pioneer Elementary School. He can be reached at www.fairlyspiritual.org or firstname.lastname@example.org.