35

cordAs occasions for celebration of recovery go, birthdays aren’t bad.

I used to have this subtle feeling that mentioning my birthday was akin to seeking attention. So I wouldn’t mention it. Then I realized that this was really just akin to worrying about what others would think of me.

So today, when a chance to glorify God through a birthday came up, I decided I would take it.

So there it is. I turn 35 on Thursday.

Is this, like, the part where where “no longer a kid” actually starts? Anyone? Bueller? Frye?

Anyway, it is the tendency of advancing increasing age to look forward and worry over the narrowing gap. Diminishing opportunities, declining vigor, regrets over goals not yet achieved, etc. I, in particular, am reminded today that my mission on earth – to lift up the name of Jesus to others – is not indefinite. I have a limited span to get this done. (Yes, I know, I’ve still got plenty of time. Though I did find out this summer that my knees are going to be requiring help from my leg muscles and will no longer hold out on their own.)

But this time I found myself looking to the past.

This season, I’ve found catharsis in a particular worship song, one you’ve probably heard of: Never Once by Matt Redman.

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us
Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us
Scars and struggles on the way

And nothing has highlighted the difference more than going back to work at the pizza delivery place (my second job). My current stint there is actually my third, following the ones in 2006-2007 and 2009-2010.

In those days, as I drove around bearing cheese and gluten to the community, I was dealing with a low-level depression – one so close to “normal” that I never spotted it for what it was. A tight knot of anxiety in my chest was the norm. My pastor called it a “black cloud”. The consequences of my family’s collapse and the resulting moves had taken a toll. I lacked the (passable) people skills I have now, so there were years of social rejection and severe insecurity to deal with. I was touchy, defensive, withdrawn.

Fast forward to just a couple years ago:

The gripping knot and black cloud were gone. I hadn’t really even noticed the knot leaving over the years. I was just sitting behind the wheel comparing those days to these and realized that things had just…cleared. Like a deep, heavy congestion finally lifting. A slashing fear dulled and muted.

I could credit several strategies God has used. There was his faithfulness in my career. Getting older brings with it a level of emotional settling; that certainly helped. He’s helped me finally find “my people” (those people read these words and groan “oh no, we’re “his people”?). Some success (or at least not-abject-failure) in youth and worship ministry have come by his grace, giving me something to be grateful for. Years of focused, concentrated prayer driving the enemy back, reclaiming territory, teaching me to pray my way back into joy.

He cleaned up my theology some. I’d learned quite well the lesson that God does not deliver us from every harsh, unfair trial, and that he is perfectly holy and well-reasoned in choosing not to do so. Yet Satan was taking that theology of suffering and twisting it. He was prompting me to expect disaster at any moment and in everything I did, because “God has allowed suffering before, he can do so again, and the fact that you dread it just shows how much you need it”.

A piece of truth harnessed in service of simple fear. Anxiety doesn’t really do the condition justice. I didn’t fear bad things might come; I was absolutely certain they would. No doubt in my mind. And I lived with that all the time.

Like a millennial confronted with a tangled iPod cord, God unraveled the knot. He came through on an immense number of things. He provided. He brought blessings. He averted. He didn’t have to, but he did. He hasn’t averted everything, nor has he answered every prayer. But I no longer live with a breath-stealing dread of the coming day.

Because the best thing he brought me was himself. A closer knowledge of him, his ironclad peace, his love in the darkest times. I cannot overstate what a treasure this is. It sounds like a consolation prize, a second-rate offering behind just fixing the hard things. It’s not. Living without his love was the hard thing. Nothing is good without that.

This may not encourage the young people this blog is meant to target, but honestly, passed time is a huge ally in learning of God’s faithfulness. You see him come through.

For that reason, I will be grateful for this birthday.

 

Thanks for tuning in today. If you think this post might be of value to someone, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

24 thoughts on “35

  1. Happy birthday, young fella🎂. You may feel that your years are passing too fast, but look back at what you’ve done in a short time. May God bless this day for you and all your future endeavors!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the encouraging article, Brandon! I can relate with the skewed theology on suffering–I can find myself treating suffering like punishment for sin or failure, and that is so withering to joy, and major fuel for anxiety.

    Happy birthday!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Because the best thing he brought me was himself.” He said to Abraham, “I am your very great reward.” You have something (someone, rather and (You) “cannot overstate what a treasure (He) is.”

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  4. this is a continuation of above. I know what it is like to wonder if I “stack up”, if my life is respected by my class reunion or am I a “less than.” I LOVE HOW YOU KNOW YOU ARE AN ABSOLUTE SUCCESS!!! The GREATEST you can be is a servant to Jesus Christ. That is the sum total of making it. you know that 10,000 years from now what is going to be important to you and me (You will be 10,035 by the way) You know that you cannot make your life count anymore than by giving it to Jesus Christ. By the world’s value system I might be a failure. I don’t care. I’m not living for them. I’m living for Jesus and my fellow journeyers. I know you are too!

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  5. I sort of vaguely remember 35. Happy Birthday! For what it’s worth, I wasn’t delivering pizza, but was actually waiting tables at the age of 45 for a while. You aren’t what you do, and as long as you are doing what God wants, all is well. I actually know now, that was part of how I ended up being in any church in the first place, and was saved. Had I continued on my “successful” path, I might not have been. God’s got this, and that is for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Well, the women like the attention from a man, and the men tend to think you are probably harmless, and they also like, I think, the idea of another man being in a servile status. Like most things for most people, it gets down to sexuality and power. And when jobless, I have NO problem fitting in that particular paradigm, as a man’s got to make a living, I was keeping my granddaughter at the time, so the schedule worked our really good. Also gave me a real sense of empathy for single working moms to tell the truth. I would work doubles Friday through Sunday(this was before I was saved), make a pile of money, and not work the other 4 days a week.

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