I feel old today. It’s taken me 35 birthdays to feel this, and so here I am. Now I know that some of my older friends reading this post are snickering, “what does this kid mean he feels old? (Not to mention the fact that he looks like he’s 20).” I don’t mean feeling old in the sense of brittle bones, sore muscles, or a forgetful memory. I feel old in the sense of not young anymore. Let me explain what I mean. Every year prior, I would reflect on my life and what I have accomplished up to this point. Usually, I’d get pretty down on myself. In fact, last year, Sarah wrote me a preemptive list describing Mitchel’s 35 greatest accomplishments in honor of my 35th birthday. Interestingly, she put marrying her as the top one (I’d agree)!
This year, however, was different. I recognize that God has brought me a long, long way. I don’t say this boastfully, but rather to simply state that I have achieved some things in my life thus far, and I humbly and gratefully acknowledge that. It may have been the circumstances leading up to this birthday. I spent the long weekend away from my family with a wonderful group of high school students in L.A., and since then have been cherishing my time with my boys and bride. It might also be the fact that we had our third son this past year – I think three kids automatically qualifies you as being ‘old’? Maybe it’s also the fact that I’m closer to 50 now than I am to 20. (Yikes!)
Regardless of the circumstances, I know that today I feel mature, no longer in a late adolescent, early/young adult season. Nothing has changed from yesterday to today in terms of my responsibilities or what is expected of me. I don’t have any badge or marker to show that I’m older. I only have the sense that some kind of switch has gone off in me, and I feel like a man. I feel like a man because I recognize that my wife and three sons need me to be one in their lives. They need me to lead, to love, and to provide. My wife needs me engaged even when I don’t feel like it. My sons need me to be present even when I’ve got a million other details running through my mind. My church needs me to be on my knees, pleading for mercy in broken and difficult situations. My students need me to be patient, compassionate, and bold enough to tell them the truth even when it is not what they want to hear. All these factors combine to make me feel like a man. I always thought that a man’s mandate was to make something of the world. This year, as I think of my family and the relationships I’m in, I can’t help but feel like I’m making something of this corner of the world I’m in, and I am overwhelmingly grateful.
I should have suspected as much when yesterday I led our family in prayer at the dinner table, and I burst out in tears of thankfulness. My oldest son, Calvin, was confused to say the least that daddy got all choked up over food, but that’s how overwhelming it was to me. I can tangibly see the goodness of God in my life far more than I deserve, even in spite of my failings and weaknesses. As I think about my family, my community, and my calling, I look back and see the ways in which God has used me, carried me, broken me, and formed me, and I feel old. For today, that’s a great thing for me, and I choose to worship God because of it.
Some birthday highlights:
1. Catching a monster bass this morning, and hooking two others – landing 7 fish overall.
2. Having lunch at Popeyes on the Water in Lake Geneva with my boys and bride.
3. Walking along the lake throwing rocks, taking pictures, playing on the playground with Calvin and Noah, and just enjoying the gorgeous weather.
4. Having a ton of Facebook friends post birthday wishes, but also having several call, text, and greet me at church.
5. Wishing I could have hit a Sonic for a Lemonberry Slush during happy hour, and to my surprise there was one along our route home!
6. Lying in bed with my son and having him tell me that it was just a good day overall <sigh>.
7. After putting the boys to bed, having a late dinner/snack with my bride – she: ramen noodles; me: peanut butter jelly sandwich.
8. Getting to just hold Ben and having him interact with me, darting his eyes back and forth as he studies my face, and even getting a grin and small chuckle as I made some funny faces. I got quality time with my whole clan today, and I am so grateful!