April 17 – Life Beyond 30 (and then some)

imageThe LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
Psalm 16:5-6

A 20-something friend recently posted a comment about his older co-workers and their incessant “it’s all downhill after 30” comments. “The kind of adult I don’t want to be,” he said.

Having passed thirty by thirty and a bit more, I told my friend not to believe a word of their no-life-beyond-30 nonsense.

On July 1, 1975, I took a job as youth director at the First Presbyterian Church of Santa Cruz, California, and set off on what has turned out to be a 40-year adventure in full-time ministry. At the time 30 seemed a long way away. Yes, around 40 I took a couple years off to gain a seminary education, but, still, this summer I will count it forty years. I wouldn’t trade the few years in ministry before 30 or the many years since 30 for anything.

The years since 30 have hardly been downhill. In fact, they have taken me to the high places with grand vistas and exhilarating experiences. Becky and I were married few years before I turned 30. After 30 we made our way from California to Oregon, Virginia, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Our three amazing children became part of the journey at various points along the way – one before 30 and two after.

In the years since 30 I have preached the Word in the slums of Brazil and villages in Guatemala. I have been given the gift of friendships I do not deserve and the privilege of seeing lives changes by the power of the Gospel. Life after 30 has been amazingly good. I think I know what David means when he writes that “the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.”

One of the joys of this week of study leave in California has been the opportunity to connect and reconnect with friends who have been a part of my life for all 40 years (and more) and others I have known for a few or many of those years.

On Wednesday evening Becky and I stole a few hours from our study conference for dinner and and evening of wonderful conversation with our friends Norm and Marietta, who live close by to the conference center and not far from Santa Cruz. My guess is that they have 20 or so years on us age-wise, their four kids having been part of the youth and children’s programs at First Presbyterian Church when we were there.

I’m not sure I ever recruited Norm to be a youth group leader; he just showed up with his kids and stayed to help. We’d end up playing basketball with the junior high kids in the church gym on Tuesday evenings and hiking the high country of the Sierra Nevada with the high school kids every summer. C.S. Lewis and the Apostle Paul were our traveling companions.

Long after I turned 30 and had moved on to other places and other things, Norm stayed in my life as a friend and a brother in Christ.

At dinner with Norm and Marietta we caught up with family news and shared a few memories from those days nearly 40 years ago, but mostly we talked about how God is still at work in our lives. We added another course of stones to a friendship the foundation of which was laid before I was 30 but which has been built stronger in all the years since. Good friendships are like that. You make sure the foundation remains strong, but then you add another room to dwelling place that friendship has become.

Norm and Marietta were incredibly important people in my life before I turned 30. More than they know, they helped lay a foundation that has been strong and has held fast. How thankful I am that their friendship survived 30 and far beyond thirty.

20-something friend, you’re not there yet, so you will just have to trust me. Life after 30 is really good. The best friendships you are building today are going to be a source of joy and strength and encouragement long past 30. The longer you go, they better they get.