For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh.The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
There’s a saying that “age ain’t nothing but a number”. Well, I turned 25 last week. A quarter of a century old. And in a sense that’s true. Age is a number which we artificially construct to understand the process of time, as beings limited to time. So should we even measure our age? What benefit does it play besides letting us feel grown up when we’re young (without really being one) or making us feel old? Yet without that number, without knowing my birthdate, yesterday wouldn’t have meant much to me. It would’ve just another day in my life. After all, 25 is just a number. But 25 does mean that a substantial enough time has passed for us as humans. And we need to number our brief lives because only if we number it will we learn how to live wisely. Here’s a few basic things I’ve learned about turning 25:
1. Your age is a number, but time is not
Time is motion, a constant state of motion where things and being are constantly becoming another. Time passes for every created thing. It plants and grows empires, and it destroys and erode others. With 25 years of time, I do feel my age today. I feel it because I can feel time catching up to me. I feel it because when I’m 25, I’m also 24, and 23, and 22, and 21, and 20, and 19… each successive year catching up to the next with all its existential toll. Life is a weary business. I can still remember celebrating my 1st birthday at McDonalds. I can still remember my 1st break up. Life catches up to you. It taps you on the shoulder and reminds you that your time in the sun is limited. Here on this earth, time stops for no one. If I’m going to live authentically, I must face the reality that my time will come.
2. Your life is never how you planned it
Turning 25 made me realize that a lot of things in my early twenties didn’t go the way I planned it. And it’s looking like life isn’t going to either. When you’re 25, you start realizing that reality doesn’t go the way you expect it to. There are things that won’t change no matter how hard I try or how many lifetimes I live. One of those things is the unpredictability of life. In fact, my twenties were a lot darker than I ever thought it would be.
As a child, I imagined my twenties full of possibility and success. One milestone after another. Each achievement only a stepping stone to another. I should have been a federal agent by now. Or a writer. Or a historian. Or after I became a Christian, I’d be studying my PhD, preaching at church and making groundbreaking contributions to philosophy. None of that happened. Instead I had my fair share of broken hearts, instability, uncertainty, confusion, disillusion, cynicism, unrealized dreams, and unfulfilled longings. All this gave way to a sense of futility and a lack of accomplishment in my life.
3. People are much worse than you think
As a teenager I knew people were bad. Evil even. It was a very real thing to me even as I grew up. But now I began to comprehend the extent of it in my own life and all its awful effects. The more knowledge I accumulated the more darkness I perceived in the human condition and in me. Broken friendships. Workplace relationships. Romantic relationships. National and global catastrophes. All of it was a mess. To focus on the whole thing would actually make you lose your mind and that made it easier to just focus on the little bit of suffering you had to deal with in your own life.
No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light. (Luke 11:33-36)
Life is hard but God is good
All in all, the last 25 years were a whirlwind of some crazy times. Great highs and bottoms out lows. Looking back, it’s clear that life was not in my hands. Nothing worked out the way I’d planned and yet things still worked out. Somehow. But you know what? At the end of the day I’m glad it didn’t because it reminded me of who, ultimately held my life in his nail bitten hands. The one for whom and through whom all things were made. Jesus Christ. I think I’d be in a pretty awful place if I had been allowed to run things my way. How can I compare after all to the embodiment of perfect goodness, truth and beauty? As a kid I went from reading about the far away God to the all satisfying joy of knowing him; something infinitely more than sports or popularity could ever give. Every year of aging has been a new experience of his infinite grace in all the details of my tiny life. And for that, I can give thanks and be grateful for the next 25 years (or hour) of my life. Because even though life was hard, God was good. He was in fact more than I deserved and he always will be.