I had my 43rd birthday a little over a month ago, and it came and went without any huge “birthday emotion” on my part. While this isn’t any big news, I found the absence of emotion notable because birthdays—and really anything that demonstrates the passage of time—seems to carry more emotions the older I get, both good and bad.
While I don’t remember all of my birthdays specifically, I do remember the excitement and anticipation. I remember finding or even creating calendars so that I could cross off the days. Of all my birthdays, I remember my 16th birthday the most vividly; the excitement of knowing that I would be able to drive and that feeling of freedom and possibility. I spent the days leading up to my birthday thinking about all the ways that my life would change after that day. I thought about all the new things I would be able to do. I thought about intentionally expanding my horizons and changing the way I do things.
It’s interesting…I don’t know that I can put my finger on when it started to feel different. But by the time 40 came a few years ago, it most definitely felt different. Suddenly, once and a while, I would start thinking about the things I can’t do anymore and the things I didn’t get a chance to do. Some about the things I haven’t done yet, but more in the “Boy, not sure I’m ever going to pull that off” kind of way. I thought about the ache in my bum knee a little bit more, thought about my retirement plan and life insurance a little more, and generally spent a lot of time thinking about birthdays gone before. While there have been wonderful, grateful moments in abundance…those once passing thoughts seem to grow stronger every year. Of course, it’s illogically worse when my age ends with a zero or five, but the trend is now a pattern: November 24th now involves some amount of grief. Grief about what I wasn’t, what I used to be, and fear telling me that it probably wasn’t going to get any better. I thought about limitations, losses, and how I could maintain things as long as possible.
I think you can see where I’m going. A new year is a sort of community birthday; it is a time where we can take a good look at who we were, are, and are becoming. As we approach another year together as the Body of Christ, those same questions and conflicts we face individually face us as Northminster. Are we facing this year thinking about possibilities or losses? Are we considering who we could become or only trying to hang on to who we are? Are we excited for the future or afraid of it?
2020 will bring new challenges and new opportunities to our door. We’ll see new people, new missions, new relationships, and new ways that God continues to reach out to us and through us. Make no mistake about it; we will be different people and a different church a year from now than we are today.
Does that last sentence read as an epitaph for you? I’m afraid it does for me sometimes. My hope and prayer for all of us this January…and especially for our neighborhood, our community, and this church is that that it reads as a promise. A reminder that God is always doing a new thing…that whether we are 95 or 15, the promise of the new year is the promise of the night before we get to drive: New, exciting horizons.