Any week leading up to my birthday is usually introspective; this past week leading to my thirtieth has been especially so. It usually starts with a mental general assessment of the past age-year, wherein I eventually resolve to add, subtract or multiply some behavior, tendency, habit or discipline so my time is better well spent. So my family feels more important. So my friends feel like family. So my body is healthier. And so I work to produce stand-out work.
This time, it felt more challenging.
The challenge was whether to make this milestone more than it should be. Should I stick to my ritual annual changes or were there more drastic changes to make?
That question eventually morphs into, “What area of life am I behind on that I need to catch up on before I get too old?” I suppose this sort of question is what a person asks him/her self before deciding whether to buy a new sports car, buy a house, have a child, or splurge on something to keep the dreams of his/her youth alive. This past week, I realized a mid-life crisis is the result of a belief that your status in life has fallen behind others around you.
Here’s the litmus test: If I do anything out of a possible desire to keep up or catch up with others I’m going against God’s unique story for me. Some of my personal stories so far:
- As an eight-year old, I remember landing in JFK with a plane full of Trinidadians who just started clapping when we touched down. For the longest time, I thought that was just what you did when you flew so that the next time I flew by myself, years later, I started to clap and no one else did.
- After moving, I only knew how to play cricket but not football or baseball. When the kids asked me to play, I was too shy and turned them down. I eventually got over that, started playing, and a couple of years later, I hit an inside-the-park 3-run HR driving in my fifth grade crush to which she said afterward, “That was a great hit!” Many years later, after a lot of practice with my brothers and Jason, I hit the longest HR at Senior Camp. I’ve never played league or rec sports. I enjoy playing racquetball though I haven’t played since moving to Westmont (because the courts are really huge and the room smells like a rave gone bad).
- The first time I stood up to someone, I was in seventh grade. He was pestering my friends and I and had been for some time. I turned around, grabbed him by the throat and pinned him against the wall. That was the first time I felt empowered and the last time he bothered us.
- I worked with my Dad since freshman year in high school until after I graduated. For a lot of years, my brother and I had the same schedule: school, homework, work, homework, sleep, repeat. It taught us a lot about the value of a strong work ethic.
- My brother befriended a couple of girls at a friend’s church and I dated one of them. Astiana would end up changing my life, not just through the enormous grief from when she passed away, but she taught me to love unconditionally, that life is best lived fully and being kind and thoughtful goes a long way. It’s almost been ten years and I still miss her.
- Because of her passing, I eventually attended Lee University where I experienced incredible growth through living in the dorm, majoring in Bible and Theology and working for a service-learning office on campus.
- At Lee, I met, pursued, romanced and married my best friend. After almost five years of marriage, when husbands talk about their wives as better than they are, I know exactly what they mean.
- In Tennessee, we made some lifelong connections with people we love. After moving to Santa Barbara, we’ve met so many fantastic people and had the chance to invest in friends’ lives. I have the opportunity to excel in the career I want to be in and work for a college whose mission I support.
- God has been in every single life experience. I was saved at a young age, gave my life over when I was sixteen. I felt a call to encourage others not too long after that but I wanted to do more and be more than a ‘simple encourager.’ It is amazing that when God called me to encourage others he knew what kind of wrestling I would be doing; what inner conflict I would be involved with. And yet, he blooms within me because of that call.
This life is unique to me. God’s desires toward me are unique to me. Thirty isn’t a milestone that requires I check my life against others. It isn’t an age that requires monumental, radical change. It’s the anniversary of a birth date that marks the first three decades of my life with stories of change, growth and adventure. It’s the entry to a new decade where I get to use any wisdom I gained, become excellent with the work of my hands, and enrich others’ lives through unconditional love and kindness.
In recollecting those stories, I’ve had in mind the image of God as an artist who has been painting my life. And as this milestone approached, I think God has taken a step back to look at what he’s painted so far. He has assessed, analyzed, and chosen the next strokes to make. His colors are remixed, he’s grabbed a smaller brush, and pulled his chair closer to the easel, eager to paint the rest of my story that looks different from billions of others.