Today is my 44th birthday. And writing those words feels odd. There is nothing especially eventful about this, but it feels odd nonetheless. Perhaps it’s because it signals the end of my early 40s, and the onset of the middle portion of this particular decade. Maybe it’s realizing that Emily and I are on the cusp of the major life-changes that accompany the late 40s and early 50s.
Or maybe it’s just that I’m an unusually reflective and/or introspective mood as I write.
I don’t know that I have much sage advice to offer anyone who might be a few years younger than me. I also don’t have a series of reflections that happen to equal 44. But I do have at least a couple of reflection-ish thoughts and updates that might be encouraging to some of you.
I’m more comfortable with myself in my 40s than I’ve ever been
That probably sounds strange, but here’s what I mean. Over the last two years in particular, I’ve spent a fair bit of time trying to be a healthier me. Having a breakdown in my doctor’s office kicked that off in earnest, but it didn’t stop there. Changing how I respond to stress, going to counseling, getting a new job… these were (and are) important to all of this.
But that’s not all that it goes into being healthier. It’s not just about taking better care of myself physically or having more effective tools for dealing with stress. It’s been dealing with my discomfort with myself. Of always feeling like I have to figure out how to “be” around people. I figured that discomfort was just something I would have to live with.
But as I’ve been learning about the reasons behind why I’ve felt this way, it’s helped me feel more at ease. (And there are some significant reasons for this that I haven’t shared publicly; maybe I will someday.) To maybe not feel like I have to try so hard. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m definitely feeling more comfortable with myself—even on my worst days. And I like that.
“You are not what you do:” 6 words about work I am trying to embrace
A friend of mine wrote a book deconstructing this lie about work (and a few others too). It’s the kind of thing that’s easy to say, but hard to live. Think about it: what’s the first question we typically ask someone we’ve just met? “What do you do?” And a way that business culture has perverted the concept of higher purpose in work has been to encourage identifying yourself with your work.1
But when we let our work become our identity, what happens? We distort the goodness of work itself. We give it a priority it was never meant to. And when work fails to meet our lofty expectations of it—when work feels like work—we become resentful.
That’s part of why I’ve been referring to my current job as my “get healthy” one. It’s to help reset my expectations of work while also doing good work that matters. To not let it become my identity because no one expects it to be. All the stuff that’s easy to say (or type), but hard to live.
Gospel community really does matter
Part of what’s been so helpful for me is genuine community—gospel culture at work. The whole idea behind gospel culture is that it is a place where the gospel saturates our entire experience. Where people get lots of time and safety to grow. And my community group does a wonderful job being a safe place for me. They celebrate my wins and pray with me in my struggles. They let me be extra awkward when I’m feeling particularly spent and glitchy. My community helps me to see Jesus at work, and I’m grateful for that, now more than ever.
Fruit is rarely seen immediately
If there was anything I felt close to sure about being the “right” thing for me to be doing, it’s writing. I enjoy it. I do it well. And it lets me serve people in ways I couldn’t otherwise. That’s part of why I wrote Now What. It’s why I’m working on something new that I won’t have much to share about for a while. But it’s also something that you rarely see the fruit of immediately. And by “fruit,” I don’t mean sales numbers (although if you have’t bought a copy, I’d love it if you would) or reviews.
I mean the way that it affects people. How it helps them follow Jesus faithfully.
But sometimes you get glimpses.
Every so often, I get a message about a book or article I wrote years ago—something I was sure was lost or forgotten. But God keeps using these things, whether a book I wrote five years ago, or an article I wrote three weeks ago. And that’s helpful for me, especially as I spend a chunk of my birthday working on a project I care deeply about and I hope will help people love Jesus more as a result.
- Churches do this too, but I suspect most reading this are not in vocational church ministry.